George Bunnell

George Bunnell Show Notes

George BunnellTalking Points

Band history and foundation of Strawberry Alarm Clock

How they arrived at the name.

Oingo Boingo connection

Venice Beach

Writers of Incense and Peppermints getting “jacked”

Bad practices in the music businesses by music biz types.

More personnel swaps and other Alarm Clock stories

Similarity to the Doors. Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger.

Comparisons with other bands.

Other songs – Curse of the Witches and World on Fire

The Unjust Drug Bust

Ontario Motor Speedway gig with Ben Balloon

Other names that came up: Frankie Avalon,Connie Stevens, John Walmsley, Richard Marx and  Madonna.

Remaking Incense and Peppermints, Licensing woes

Roger Ebert, Valley o9f the Dolls

Playing unplugged

Links to Strawberry Alarm Clock Website, Videos and Other Resources

Links to Strawberry Alarm Clock Website, Videos and Resources

Strawberry Alarm Clock – Official Band Website

Incense And Pepperments

Birdman of Alkatrash

The World’s On Fire

Curse of the Witches

Wake Up Where You Are – Full Album 


Current Lineup

George Bunnell – bass, rhythm guitars, vocals 

Steve Bartek – guitars, flute, producer

Gene Gunnels – drums, percussion, vocals

Randy Seol – drums, vibes, percussion, vocals

Mark Weitz – keyboard, vocals

Howie Anderson – lead guitar, vocals

Previous Members

Chris Jay

Randy Zacuto

Lee Freeman – rhythm guitars, harmonica, vocals

Ed King – lead guitars, bass, vocals

John DeLeone – drums, percussion

Gary Lovetro – bass

Greg Munford – vocals, drums )

Marty Katin – drums

Jimmy Pitman – guitars, vocals

Paul Marshall – guitars, vocals

Leo Gaffney – vocals

Doug Freeman – vocals

Peter Wasner – keyboards

James Harrah – guitars

Clay Bernard – keyboards

Bob Caloca – vocals

Bruce Hubbard – drums, percussion

Jon Walmsley – guitars, keyboards, vocals

Glenn Brigman – keyboards


Hal InPhilly  0:00 

Now I gotta be honest with you, I remember Incense and Peppermints

George  0:09 

Ehh, yeah!

Hal InPhilly  0:11 

And, admittedly, you know, who was it? Tom Rush? Somebody said, “If you remember the 60s, he weren’t there.”

George  0:18 

Ahh, yeah.

Hal InPhilly  0:20 

And I kind of fall into that trap. I was drinking a lot with my friends… or doing acid. You know, I tried all the stuff… back in the day

George  0:29 


Hal InPhilly  0:30 

And I didn’t really get a real good gauge about what The Strawberry Alarm clock was all about back then. But in retrospect, I’m looking at the whole psychedelic scene and the music business was changing, and then it went from like the British Invasion and then Bubblegum came in and then you came out just when groups like the Lemon Piper’s and other groups, but when I listen to your songs, you don’t sound Bubblegum at all. But back when… no… What’s going on?

George  1:00 

   I got lumped into that.

Hal InPhilly  1:03 

Right, and you guys are like pure die-hard. good musicians. Your vocals are as good as Beach Boys are Crosby, Stills and Nash. I mean, you worked out some pretty, pretty tight harmonies.

George  1:15 

Yep!  They’re intricate

Hal InPhilly  1:20 

Yeah, I noticed because I was checking some of the stuff out. I’m like, Damn, I missed out on this on this whole episode here. So take me back. I know I missed a little bit of what you’ve been going through growing up. So, you got to kind of bring me up to speed. If you got a good story or to just lay it on me.

George  1:40 

The way it all started is there was two different bands. I was in a band with Randy Seol, the drummer and Steve Bartok, who put flute on the first album and he was also a guitar player. And there were three other guys in our band. Criss Jay was the lead singer and Randy Zacuto,  the lead guitar player and Fred Schwartz, was the keyboard player. And we had a bunch of songs mainly. Steve Bartek and I were writing the songs and Fred Schwarts and Randy Zacuto, were writing songs together too.

George  2:18 

And a lot of those songs Randy Seol ended up going an getting an audition with the Strawbaerry Alarm Clock but they won’t call it the Strawbaerry Alarm Clock. They were called Thee Sixpence and they were you know the other half of what ended up being Strawberry Alarm Clock which is Mark Weitz on keyboards and Ed King on guitar and Lee Freeman on lead vocals. And at the time, their drummer was Gene Gunnels And what ended up happening was Gene’s girlfriend gave him an ultimatum because nothing was going on with their band, and they were all kind of like already out of school. Either drop out or whatever, you know. Mark had already graduated. And he had already gone to Valley State College and so he was on his way. He was ahead of the rest of us. He was 21, the rest of us were 18. And anyway, I went when  Gene his, after his girlfriend gave him the ultimatum, he decided to go with the girlfriend and quit the band right after he played drums on the track, for Incense, and Peppermints so it’s him on the recording.

George  3:35 

So, the manager got wind of Randy Seol, our drummer, who was also a singer, and Randy Seol had come up from Riverside, and he had like kind of a… he was known because of the music circuit. Y’know, he – all the musicians like, that’s how we got him, you know,  through our local music store here. Anyway, he put himself out there, to audition for all kinds of groups, he even auditioned for The Seeds, and The Electric Crows, and you know, other bands. And he was in this other band called Factory that was a great band, but they never made it. Kind of like the band the Cyrkle that turn down anything. And

Hal InPhilly  4:20 

You say, The Cyrkle? “C-y”… the ones that did Red Rubber Ball?

George  4:23 

Red Rubber Ball? That’s what it was! Yeah!  Yeah, they were kind of like that. But anyway, so Randy ended up getting the gig with the with, they were called Thee Sixpence. And, started to do some shows with them, and it came out Incense, and Peppermints. I finished up the recording and released the record. And they have in a third like you were saying Birdman of Alcatrash was on the flip side and it was a novelty song that Mark had written with Leon, that day. But, but I don’t think Lee got credit but I think the two of them came up with it. And, and that’s what the band had intended. to keep them. For the six months they intended for Birdman of Alcatrash because as a novelty song, you know, like, One-Eyed Purple People Eater or something different.

Hal InPhilly  5:25 

Right, right.

George  5:27 

So they were trying to do one of those kind of things. Because before that they had released a bunch of single, but they were all you know, went by the wayside. A couple of them have original songs on it. And but they could get any of it signed. The DJ in Santa Barbara, who was a friend of the band’s manager, was named Bill Hall. And ultimately, he ended up ripping the band off, and he, at the time was a go getter. And he’d go knock on doors and get everything done. And he knew this disc jockey in Santa Barbara named Johnny Fairchild and Johnny Fairchild said, “Well i think the A side is actually “Incense, and Peppermints”, not Birdman of Alcatraz.You guys are crazy…

George  6:17 

So he started playing Incense and Peppermints instead of Birdman of Alcatraz. Well first if all –  He was a disc jockey. He can make or break a record pretty much just by how often they play it or what they say when they’re playing it, you know?

Hal InPhilly  6:31 


George  6:33 

He got the the build up going and made it the # 1 most requested song in their league, which is what they used to do in those days.

George  6:44 


George  6:45 

People used to call in and request the songs to be played. So that happened all over the country actually, but, Incense, and Peppermints started on one station and he was in Santa Barba ra it was called KIS, And   Jonny Fairchild was the disc jockey. Really nice guy. Anyway, he loved the band and the band had been playing in Santa Barbara at this place called Dino’s pizzeria. And I used to go up there with Randy Sudokus, Randy’s he was the drummer in my band still. And so I used to run us and we were best friends like it. So Randy used to bring me up there to do watch their gig and watch them play. They decided that they wanted to record a bunch of the songs that my band had, that Steve Bartek and I wrote and Fred Schwartz, the keyboard player, he wrote the song The World’s on Fire, but he wrote the music and it was called “Colors On the Wall”.  So we went in the studio, I brought, first of all, I brought the keyboard tech and I brought all the songs over to a band rehearsal of Thee Sixpence but by that time, they were changing their name to the Strawberry Alarm Clock because they were on the verge of getting a record deal from the record company. So there’s other bands called The Sixpence… you got to get rid of that. Okay? So they sat around trying to come up with a name and they managed to come up with strawberry alarm clock. There, there’s a story, but it’s not that great. But the story is they were sitting around. Mark, keyboard player wanted us to be Strawberry, because of Strawberry Fields Forever, right?

George  8:27 

He’s not that psychedelic.

George  8:31 

He was into everybody at the time was like into the psychedelics in the in Canada. They were sitting around in Mark’s bedroom… was the rehearsal room. It was a guest house at his parents house. sitting around in there and Mark has his little Big Ben alarm clock, and it tended to make a wacky sound like it was scraping the hands were scraping going around at a certain point. And everybody, after throwing out a bunch of names with Strawberry, the alarm clock made its own little presence known, and we all kind of looked at it! Strawberry Alarm Clock! So that’s how the name came back.

Hal InPhilly  9:15 

So anyway, so in retrospect, then you could it could have had a cuckoo clock it could have changed the name of the band. Strawberry Cuckoo.

George  9:24 

. Yeah, well, they were coming up with all the other things like “Strawberry Toilet”. Y’know. Everything they could think of. Yeah, a little alarm clock went off and that was that.

Anyway, so that was the name of the band. So Bartek and I went to that house, that little guest house and played him all of our songs and they said, you know Ed King was kind of the decision maker in the band him and Mark Weitz.

So they decided to do all our songs and they were getting this recording deal. They got the single deal. And, and then they said, like we were learning the songs. I was teaching them the songs and Steve was playing flute and I was playing guitar and then their bass player wasn’t grasping the whole idea of the bass parts and I had a couple of the bass parts are written with the song or so. I am Why don’t you just play bass partner? So then we go in the studio. So I started playing bass on a bunch of the songs…   Ed K ing he played bass on a couple of tracks, too

Once we finished the all the recording the band said why don’t you be in the band?

George  11:35 

So Randy the drummer goes, so, we’re gonna have to quit. He goes, “Just quit. We got a record deal”  And I’m like, “Okay”, and then my band.. the other guys were kind of pissed off. Steve Bartek, he was in the other band too.  But he is., “No, you cannot join the strawberry alarm clock” Because he was 15. The rest of us were 18

Hal InPhilly:

Who was 15? Bartek?


He was. His mom said no. And yeah, and so he was bummed out. But anyway, he stayed home and his story turned out really well because he stayed back while the band went on to success, although he wrote, you know, all the songs. He says he did get some, some paychecks from it, and it did really well, but he was staying home. And he ended up finishing his schooling and going to UCLA and getting particularly music and everything. And then after, you know, a few years later, he ended up in the band, Oingo Boingo, which I don’t know if you guys know East Coast,

Hal InPhilly  12:48 

Oh, I used to live in California. Just actually I knew Danny and Rick, his brother, they worked. Oh, they both worked at the Great American for a short time. And then I also used to see the Oingo Boingo out on Venice Beach a lot. They used to just play acoustically doing their schtick.

George  13:05 

Yeah. Exactly. Okay. So you totally know. So Steve ended up in that band. And now he’s Danny Elfman orchestrator for all the movie scores Danny does.

Hal InPhilly  13:17 


George  13:17 

And Steve was the producer and lead guitar player of Oingo Boingo for their entire career. Yeah,

Hal InPhilly  13:23 

I think of myself as a sort of like Zelig or Forrest Gump. Like I’ve been like in every scene in the background like a fly on the wall. I don’t know how I managed to do it, but I’ve always just been where things were happening.. So…

George  13:42 

that’s pretty good. Yeah.

Hal InPhilly  13:50 

And and what’s the guy that on the rollerskates that was out there all the time. Henry Carry Harry.

George  13:58 

Oh, yeah. The guy that plays Hendrix

Hal InPhilly  14:03 

So yeah, I saw all that stuff. And who knows? I might have met you for all I know somewhere along the line.

George  14:17 

So  I ended up I did end up quitting my band and and went and joined the Alarm Clock, and then Incense and Peppermints started to take off and…  First I was with them going to Johnny Fairchild’s studio, and then all of a sudden, Palm Springs happened and eventually LA, picked up the song and it and then it, there was this guy, Bill Drake, who owned all the stations across the United States that were CBS stations and he He said, I’m going to go with it. So he put it on like 250 stations one day. And you know, that’s all you need is the boom and the thing just have a life of its own and it took off and it was a massive hit. And in the meantime, there’s a nother side story there because two things happened. One was during the recording of the song… see the lyrics were actually written to Incense and Peppermints by John Carter. But he had nothing to do with the band. He was just the the band’s producer’s, lyricist that he worked because the band The producer Frank Slay had a publishing company. And so John Carter was  one of his go to writers. And Incense and Peppermints like when Gene Gunnels played drums on it, it was an instrumental and the actual tracks that you hear on the video was originally without vocals. And so,  it was written by Mark Weitz and Ed King.

George  16:23 

And what ended up happening was they got jacked on it because of the manager wanted everybody’s name on it including his own. And so the producer said no, it’s not gonna happen that way.  Narrow it down to two names and, you know – and  it’s going to have John Carter and Tim Gilbert as the lyricist. And Tim Gilbert though, really didn’t do anything I don’t think, and it was mainly John Carter’s lyric.

George  16:55 

And so, what ended up happening was they sent the thing into copyright without Mark and Ed’s name on it. So they got nothing of the song. They wrote the music, and the things the whole track was already recorded and done. So not only did they write the music, it was already in the can, and they got nothing. So it’s like one of those really strange cases, of Mark and Ed were told basically just to shut up if you want to make it in the music business . It’s kind of what you have to do, y’know.

Hal InPhilly  17:27 

That wasn’t uncommon. And there was a couple books, Hitman and Platinum Rainbow. Both contributed to my – I stopped writing or trying to write songs for two years, because after reading these books and reading all like stories like that.. A&R guy wanted to put his name on every record that that he didn’t write, you know, I’ve said, if that’s the way it is, and like, I don’t want to do this.

George  17:52 

Yeah, it was bad in those days. It’s probably not much better now. But I think, yeah, we’ll

Hal InPhilly  17:58 

See the thing is, now, you have your video go viral, and everybody knows who did what now.

George  18:05 

Yeah. Also now though, they don’t have a limit as to how many names they’ll put on a song. Right now, you’ll see like, like, when I vote for the Grammys, I sit here doing my voting, and I look at the list of songwriters and some of the songs. I’m like, WHAAAAT???  like eight or ten names you know, it took an army to write the song and it’s some some of the songs are like nothing. You know?

Hal InPhilly  18:30 

What? Each person wrote A WORD.

George  18:33 


Hal InPhilly  18:34 

So let me just ask you this. Before Incense and Peppermint.

George  18:40 

Can you remember how it felt like the very first time you heard it on the radio like, what’s that feel like?

George  18:45 

It was pretty remarkable. I was on a date with some girl and I was on a double date with our drummer Randy and these two girls were sisters and it came on the radio We were like, whoa. And they were like we were blown away, but they were even more blown away. The date didn’t hurt.

George  19:13 

Anyway, there was one little extra little tidbit on Incense and Peppermints. So, after John Carter came back to the band with the lyrics he wrote, they tried everybody’s voice in the band to see whose voice would fit. And, and it was, the song was since it was already recorded, it was in he and the key wasn’t right for any of the singers and the alarm clock. And there was another friend of the band, great Munford just hanging out in the studio because the manager also produced him and managed him. And they said, they let him try out. He said, go ahead and and give it a whirl. It was exactly it was in his perfect key. It was right in his wheelhouse. So they figured, okay, it’s just a demo. And he wasn’t in the band. And so they kept the track with him singing it. And then it created a whole problem from there because he didn’t, because the band, the song started to make it. And he didn’t want to be in the band. He was his own artist, you know. And he wanted to have a solo career. So it wasn’t he was never going to join the band. That was that’s another little side story. So the lead singer on intensive was normally in the dance. And he did this on like, in one take anyway. Three minutes or something that the song was is how long he was.

Hal InPhilly  20:37 

Ahh, see now I never I some reason I just assumed that was you singing lead? What’s it What’s this? No.

George  20:45 

Greg Munford

Hal InPhilly  20:46 

Greg Mumford.

George  20:48 

Yeah. And his solo career never ever did take off. He had singles and stuff…or… tried to, and he’s kind of like an underground thing that people know who he is. But he never had any kind of great success. It would have made the band a whole different thing. He would have stayed in our band. Sure. But anyway, Cei la vie. And so yeah, that was that’s the story of Incense and Peppermints and how the whole thing started. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. And, and I was in at that point and rode the whole success train, you know, with the band and did all the TV shows and everything, but I didn’t play on the original record. As a matter of fact, it’s only Ed and Mark and Gene, the drummer, and Gene wasn’t in the band anymore. And so and then they had Randy Seol. Yeah.

Hal InPhilly  21:41 

So you went to quite a few personnel changes it sounds like

George  21:44 

Only before everything started, kind of, it’s like, they brought me in as a songwriter, because they already had a bass player guitar teacher was was the bass player and but they said we want you in the band, and then you can play guitar and whatever else you want. Do percussion and, and sometimes play bass. And I said, Okay, fine, cuz they had a record deal. So it was like cool. And that’s what happened I was in it and then they decided that they didn’t want Gary in the band anymore. So after the first album, they fired and by that time the band was a real entity and under contract. And so he sued for breach of contract, which I ended up getting caught up in, there’s their lawsuit too. So and Randy field became the drummer and he was the cute guy in the band. And so the manager wanted him to be the lead singer and lip sync Incense and Peppermints on all the TV show. Instead of have the lead in because we had the, you know, Lee Freeman was the lead singer in the band, but Randy had all the songs of mine.

Hal InPhilly  22:54 

Yeah, he wanted the cute guy. I can see that.

Hal InPhilly  22:57 


George  23:00 

Neither one of them’s sang the song. And both of them could sing it. It’s just that they wanted Randy to be the guy. And  at that point, Randy was singing all these other songs that I had brought to the band. So he was essentially becoming the lead singer. And Lee was just being the rhythm guitar player and singer too, but and not until the second album did Lee start to sing lead on a bunch of things. But the second single came out too soon. The song “Tomorrow” was written by Mark Weitz and Ed King and just like incense and peppermints was that they got no credit on inset. So the manager felt bad for what caused it. So before the second album was even recorded, he had the band go in and record a song that mark and Ed wrote, called tomorrow and release it as a single. And it wasn’t on the first album and the second album wasn’t going to come out for three more months or four months. And so the really blew it there. And but the song rode on the coattails of intense peppermints and got to number 23 on Billboard, which is like a hit record, you know, and, but it could have thought it could have gone higher if everything was perfect. I also thought that they should have bought more of the songs from the first album to be singles after Incense and Peppermints but they didn’t. The first album was number 11.

Hal InPhilly  24:27 

So essentially, they sort of like relegated you to being sort of like one hit wonders when you probably could have had several more hits after that.

George  24:36 

Yeah, yeah. And it was we were never really a one hit wonder cuz it you know, the album was number 11. The single was number one, and then the follow up single was number 23. Right. So there’s like three hits right there. In a row. But the second album, didn’t chart. It didn’t even hit the charts. Because this the way that they screw the whole thing up. That was the manager and He was an idiot. Now is he was the guy that was responsible for making it all happen and then he blew it all he

Hal InPhilly  25:08 

is he still around or…?

George  25:10 

I think he passed away last year. That was the rumor. We lost touch with him but then somebody said, you know, he had this. He started a record company called Akarma. And it was out of Italy. It should have been Bad Akarma.

Hal InPhilly  25:25 

Or just Bad Karma. B-karma. The B is for Bad?

George  25:28 

Yeah, B-Karma. And so but, yeah, so anyway, he any – And he continued ripping people off off all the time. And he ended up releasing all of the Sixpense singles on A Karma.

George  25:30 

You were saying that they brought you in as a songwriter. So were you writing songs for other other groups or other people too, or do you continue?

George  25:52 

No, just my me being Steve Bartek lived next door to each other and we wrote songs every day. And so Yeah, so we had we were writing them for our own amusement and then the band I was in was doing some of them.

Hal InPhilly  26:08 

Did you ever go out as an acoustic duo? Do open mics, or any that kind of stuff?

George  26:12 

No… No, cuz I played bass and Steve played flute. And mostly what we would do like if we were playing like his brother played jazz guitar and his other friend of ours play drums. So we would do like jazz instrumentals and you know, standards and stuff, just for our own amusement, because nobody would really pay us. And, and then, but then we kept writing songs. The truth of it was we were like almost incapable of learning the top 40 and, and making it sound like anything. Although I ended up in a band that did the top 40 and but they had their own guitar player and singer and he he managed to sing all the top 40 songs and play them. But me and Steve and the rest of us. We just didn’t like doing it. I guess we just we just didn’t function that way. But when we wrote our own songs, we functioned perfectly well. We would design all the harmonies and all this kind of stuff. And the alarm clock, what we brought songs like “Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow” , for instance, was a song that Steve and I wrote. It had we had already put built in the harmonies and everything else. But the Alarm Clock had a vocal code and he used to write harmony parts for the band and a lot of his stuff was like, over the top, but they would get us to sing at all. It was almost like we used to liken it to the Andrew Sisters And it was, but yeah, yeah, it was kind of funny. But then one day The Beach Boys came to one of our recording session, and they said, you know, we really like you guys. We want you to tour with us. We think your album is great. We love all the harmonies, and we were kind of blown away. We’re like, wow. Yeah, we have two tours we want you to do with us. One is going to be our Thanksgiving tour, and then in 1967. And then in 1968, we want you to do our Easter tour, and both tours will be with the Buffalo Springfield, Strawberry Alarm Clock and the Beach Boys. So we were like, blown away. This was like, as big as it could be. Oh, yeah. Cuz they’re Beatles.

Hal InPhilly  28:31 

That would be on anybody’s bucket list.

George  28:33 

Yeah. Like the Beatles and The Stones weren’t touring at the time. So this was like the, besides The Who, who we also played with, this was like the biggest thing that you could be with. It was exciting.

Hal InPhilly  28:47 

  I had one observation before I forget it. When I listen to your stuff. I don’t know how you know how much you discuss things with your keyboard player, but I couldn’t help but notice like some of the feel was like similar to Ray Manzarek of the doors did did they go to like the same teacher or influence each other somehow because I definitely heard some that doors influence in the keyboards.

George  29:13 

You know what that is? Both of them were classically trained on key on piano. And they switched over to organ. And they, neither one of them could play the Jimmy Smith kind of style award, which was what our keyboard player in the band I came out of – that was what he did. He played like Jimmy Smith, right. You know, and those guys couldn’t function like that as a, you know, that kind of, and so they brought in what they knew, you know, which was the classical training. But they’re both similar like that, but they didn’t get it from each other. It’s just it’s just the way it comes out when you when you put a Farfisa or Dip right in the hands of a classical trained musician.

Hal InPhilly  30:04 

Right? I was a huge fan of the I love the sound of the Farfisa. As a matter of fact, did you know Andy Kahn at TheTurtles? Yeah, he had an all instrumental album out. He was telling me when he was younger, called Johnny Farfisa. which I found to be interesting. Yeah, I love the Farfisa sound. I think that’s part of what gives Strawberry Alarm Clock that signature…

George  30:29 

Oh, absolutely. Yeah, the way Mark did it. It was, you know, he, he would – it was sort of like a, like, my songs became like a coloring book for him. And he would kind of color them in with his organ parts. It was really neat

Hal InPhilly  30:44 

That’s a great way of describing it.

George  30:47 

Yeah, it’s, it’s what it was to literally have his coloring book. See now Ed King’s guitar playing – he was actually from the more blues style and how rock and blues and everything, but he loved Robby Krieger of the doors. So he also had something to do with making it sound like The Doors. When I first got in The Alarm Clock, part of the set were Doors songs. And they they did Light My Fire!

Hal InPhilly  31:19 

See now you’re making me feel better though I was able to pick up on that

George  31:23 

You DID!

George  31:25 

And Ed King later, you know, like Robby Krieger is a friend of mine. But what I know Ed when he met him, I, I’m sure he told him that, “You’re like one of my greatest influences.” Because he was… Robby Krieger was a huge influence on Ed. But then Ed kind of went away from that went more into not using fuzz tones or any kind of pedals. He just started to play straight sounding guitar, and he ended up in Lynyrd Skynyrd, which came about because Lynyrd Skynyrd was the opening act for the alarm. Unlike two different tours, and so they became friends and they told an ad and the singer from Skynyrd, they got along great. They used to sit around and play on days off or whatever at night. And they did like the same kind of stuff. And so, Ronnie Van Zant told Ed, if the alarm clock ever breaks up, call us, and that’s what ended up happening. The alarm clock ended up breaking up. Ed got in touch with Ronnie Van Zandt and drove out to wherever he went to, I think Jacksonville, Florida and hooked up with them and because their basic, they said, Oh good, you know, our bass player that you want to play days. And Ed said, Sure. So that’s what ended up happening. Ed played bass on the first Lynyrd Skynyrd album. He played bass on Freebird.

Hal InPhilly  32:51 


George  32:52 


Hal InPhilly  32:53 


George  32:53 

Yeah. And then he ended up you know, by the second album, they said there because their bass player wanted to get back in the band. So by the second album, they said Ed Leon’s coming back in the band. He he quit for a similar reason as Jean gunnels our earner with the alarm clock. Leon Wilkerson’s girlfriend or wife whatever it was, wanted him to work for her dad’s ice cream company. And so he went and did that. And he quit the band and then the band became successful. So he wanted to get back in. Funny thing is is that Randy Seol and I quit the alarm clock after the after we finished recording the third album because the manager was so crooked and then we started finding out what he was doing. And so the band was going to fire the manager but then at the last minute the manager city of cancer and only six months to live, and mark and Ed and lead didn’t want to fire him and so Randy I quit. And when we quit the cold Gene gunnels uncut Jean gunnels back in the band is their drummer so he came back in and did the fourth album. Good morning starshine Now, but anyway, when Leonard Skinner said, you know, Leon Wilkerson is coming back into the band, and thought he was out of a gig, but they said, No, no, no, we want you to play guitar. So Ed moved over to guitar from bass and on the second album, it’s Ed playing lead guitar like on Sweet Home Alabama and plays both of those guitar solos. And he pulled up the sun.

Hal InPhilly  34:22 

That’s amazing. All you guys are like multi instrumentalist, you weren’t relegated to just one instrument so that that had to help a lot.

George  34:29 

Yeah, I used to have to play guitar and percussion and mandolin and bass and I was forced into it. I used to fake flute because Steve couldn’t be in the band. So he had flute parts on a couple of the songs that I used to, like if we did rainy day mush repeller on fire. They used to have me fake like I was playing flute. You know,

Hal InPhilly  34:57 

The other day I was listening on YouTube, to was a Curse of the Witch…?

George  35:01 

Oh yeah,  Curse of the Witches.

Hal InPhilly  35:04 

Yeah, I’m listening. I’m thinking, what the actual f? That’s a really interesting song. Did you write that?

George  35:14 

What happened.. Well, Yes, I wrote the music to it. But Randy Seol wrote the lyrics to it, but it was originally an idea that Steve Bartek hat but by that time, Steve wasn’t on tour with us. And Steve had this song that started, “21 years ago…”. And so, Randy— its Steve’s song – I think I might have even been called Curse of the Witches or something. But Randy really liked the idea of it. And then, and I was working on this instrumental, which was the music for it, and he said, Can I put my own lyrics using the idea of, you know, the curse of the witches? I said okay, yeah, sure, cuz he was the guy that was gonna sing it. So it makes it easy that way if the lyrics, instead of –  can sing it also so they can come up with their own rhythm of the

George  35:17 

Well it’s a great story and very interesting and your music matches it. I loved it. I’m like, Why hadn’t I never heard this before?

George  36:22 

Yeah, it was too long. Because in those days, you would never get airplay off as a single except for the Doors with Light My Fire.

Hal InPhilly  36:33 

Right.  Yeah, but that was a jam and they called it the “album version”.

George  36:38 

Yeah, exactly. We did the same thing with The World’s On Fire. We had a long version and a short version. Did you perform Curse of the Witches on tour? Live?

George  36:48 

Never. No,

Hal InPhilly  36:49 

Never did, huh?

George  36:50 

No, because Ed King hated it. Ed and Mark hated it. And so they didn’t want to do it. But it had some really neat things about it. So we never did it. And most of the time, the sets, like when we were playing when we were on tour, we had to do like a half hour to maybe 45 minutes sets. And all the shows were like, mixed up with all different kinds of acts. Like we played with Otis Redding. It’s like –  and those things; they were like Cavalcade of Stars kind of thing.

Hal InPhilly  37:23 

Yeah, I do. Like a lot of all these reunion shows and stuff. Yeah. “Where was the Where Are They Now?” Tour?

George  37:31 

Oh, yeah, they do it again. Yeah, they put a whole bunch of bands and each band comes out and does 15 minutes or something?

Hal InPhilly  37:36 

Yeah. Did you like to did you tour Europe or Japan or any in any of those places back in the day?

George  37:42 

Well, we were. We were set up to do that, because we were with the William Morris Agency, and then the band got busted in Peoria, Illinois. When that happened, and it was we were framed.

George  37:54 

What ended up happening was the things that we were just about to embark on got canceled. Like, we had a tour that was supposed to be like France and Germany, and it was also supposed to include Japan. And then we had the Dick Cavett Show. I forget what else there was a couple of other TV shows that immediately were cancelled as soon as we got busted,

Hal InPhilly  38:22 

That’s had to be devastating.

George  38:23 

It was the estimate that like the headlines in the paper, this is an interesting bit. My mom was on her way to work in her car. And she heard, “Seven members of the Strawberry Alarm Clock rock group have been arrested in a  narcotics raid. And she, my mom just started crying and turn your car around and went home. And you know, and then, you know, in those days, you couldn’t get, and you couldn’t unring the bell, so to speak, right? I had to wait….

Hal InPhilly  38:56 

And you couldn’t go on your phone and go on the internet and see what actually happened. 

Hal InPhilly  39:02 

So she had to wait forever to get the whole story. Oh, my God.

George  39:05 

Yeah, there was like a couple of days, you know thing and then… The next day, all the charges were dropped and it was illegal search and seizure. And, they had planted a bag of Mark Weitz’s room. The whole thing was a joke, and then we got a rebuttal in the paper but it was like a little blip two days later. They put this little…

Hal InPhilly  39:31 

Why would somebody be so hell bent on ruining your lives?

George  39:36 

Yeah!!! Nearly destroyed the career and it really messed everything up.

Hal InPhilly  39:42 

That’s an understatement.

George  39:43 

Yeah, that was the beginning of the end.

Hal InPhilly  39:47 

Well, we could just jump like till till now. Things are going a little better these days. I take it. Right?

George  39:51 

it right. Yeah. Yeah, so we got together different times, like over like in around ’74 Me and Randy Seol and Steve Bartek got together and did, ehh, because, you know, Ed was already on tour with Skynard. And so nobody was doing the Alarm Clock. And so we decided to do it. And we did. We played at the California Jam. Remember that?

Hal InPhilly  40:21 


George  40:22 

In the Ontario Motor Speedway? We played that show with this guy called Ben Balloon. And it was… He had this gigantic rocking burro, and he would go up in the balloon with a keyboard and a bullhorn. And we would be on the ground on a platform on a stage and do the whole set like that. Anyway, we were on between Emerson lake and Palmer and Deep Purple, and he’s singing and playing piano up there. Yeah, he had a Fender Rhodes it was the craziest thing, Anyway, so that was one of the reincarnations of the band; and then they they ended up dying. But we had, you know, like we had management, we were good photos with all we’re all ready to go. And then from there, fast forward to like 1982 and we ended up being Lee Freeman and Randy Seol and Mark Weitz got together with Gene Gunnels.

George  41:27 

At first was not with Randy Seol. It was with Gene Gunnels. And we did a couple of shows in Santa Monica. And there was a place called the Music Machine and that place had been advertising “Strawberry Alarm Clock – coming soon.” And so we had called them and said, What are you talking about? The guy, the club owner goes, “Oh! I knew you guys would contact me –  because I’m just trying to find you! So would you play?”

George  41:55 

So we said “Okay”! We did that show and then mark did a Mark decided again that he didn’t want to do it because he had his own business by that time, doing tropical fish. He said, No, I don’t want to go, because we had a show come up at Harrah’s in Lake Tahoe that was going to be a couple of weeks. And so he said, “No, I don’t want to do that. I just, I have I have my business” like, “I can’t do that”. He quit. And so another friend of ours Pete Wosner who played keyboards and another friend of ours, James Harrah played guitar, and Randy Seol came back and played drums, because Gene also didn’t want to do it. Anyway, we did that show and it was successful, then that that was ’82. Like, that band did a couple of other things. It ended up disposing of itself. Self-destructing.

Hal InPhilly  42:48 


George  42:50 

Yeah, like in 1984. We ended up getting together with another guitar player named John Walmsley, and he used to be On The Waltons…

Hal InPhilly  43:01 

I knew I knew that name. Yeah…

George  43:02 

Yeah. And so and he was a friend of mine. And so he said, Yeah, I’d love to do it. Did a bunch of stuff. We toured with him. We did a TV show with Frankie Avalon and Connie Stevens, and we did a it was filmed in Florida. Now what was that thing? I think it was like, like a spring break reunion. It was called. We had pretty good success with it. and then he ended up; John Walmsley ended up with a gig with Richard Marx. So he left and and by the way, James Harrah, the first guitar player got the gig playing for Madonna. So he had that’s why he left. But we lose we get good guitar players, but the result is they get good gigs eventually. Yeah.

Hal InPhilly  43:50 

Do you have any interest, lke, from, uh, like, from, uhh, current movies or documentaries and whatnot. They want one license Incentive and Peppermints? Because a lot of that kind of stuff is making a comeback now, I think.

George  44:02 

Yeah, what we have done was –  So in 2017, we went in the studio and recorded an exact version of Incense and Peppermints, and we had Ed King, Ed King passed away in 2018. He played on this track. It was Ed, and we got the original lead singer Greg Munford…

Hal InPhilly  44:27 

Oh, really?

George  44:28 

…and everybody.

Hal InPhilly  44:29 

After all this time, Greg’s back in the picture!

George  44:31 

Yeah. and they got everybody to do, you know, their exact part, It was produced by a guy named Ken Roberts.. it was his idea. Anyway, the concept of it was that we would own our own licensing. That’s what we’ve done. We have it with a company that does just that thing. They try to place your song in movies. And so it’s because it’s an exact replica of Incense and Peppermints, the idea was that someone would use it in a TV or film but that hasn’t happened yet. Although, it kept happening using the original song like Austin Power and some other things kept popping up with and we because we didn’t own the licensing we could never get anything out of it. That’s why we did it.

Hal InPhilly  45:24 

Well that makes sense so you’d get little bit on the back end. You know what I love about Incense and Peppermints?  It’s almost like to like a sort of like the same thing like Sweet Judy Blue Eyes. It’s got one groove in the beginning and then all the sudden it goes into that… “Sha La La…” Like, that’s just so cool how… Was it originally written that way or did you did you add that later? How did that come about?

George  45:47 

You know what? I’m pretty sure that was how it was written. But I think that the Shalalas were actually, I think, Randy Seol’s idea but the music to it was Mark.

Hal InPhilly  46:00 

It was just ingenious to tag that on the end. I mean that, that there’s two things that make that song – the sha la las at the end. And the high hat part, right, where it just goes, “di-di-did-dit  – tss tss”

Hal InPhilly  46:10 

Yeah. Tss Tsss

Hal InPhilly  46:15 

And I mean that…

George  46:16 

those were, yeah. And so guess what happens? Fast forward to after we do a bunch of incarnations of the band. Then in 2007, Roger Ebert, the film critic, so, his people contact me and they say, “We want the original Strawberry Alarm Clock to close Roger Ebert’s Film Festival. It was also in Illinois, it was in Champaign, Illinois. It’s a you know, the University of Champagne is like a film school kind of a thing. That’s where Roger Ebert came from. They said, “Would you be willing to put the original band back together?” And I said, “Yeah, it would take some doing and they said, “Okay well, look at it this way… Whatever it takes, do it. And we’ll take care of everything.” And I said, “Woah! Okay!” So in 2007, I’m contacting Ed King and also Lee Freeman and Gene Gunnels and Mark Weitz and all of us went ahead and pulled the show together. We also had another friend of mine who was in the band after I left, his name is Paul Marshall. He had written a couple of songs for the movie “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.”

Hal InPhilly  47:31 


George  47:32 

That movie was – the screenwriter on it was Roger Ebert. And so that’s why he wanted the Alarm Clock. He had written Strawberry Alarm Clock into the script,

Hal InPhilly  47:42 

Aha! The plot thickens!

George  47:44 

Yeah. And you know, [imitating Roger Ebert] “Yeah, I paid The Strawberry Alarm Clock $4000 dollars to play at my private party.”

George  47:50 

You know, there’s all these funny lines in the movie that people quote? The movie became like a cult favorite, especially here in LA, And… we did it! We went there. It’s called the Overlooked Film Festival. We ended up doing a whole set with all the original guys.

Hal InPhilly  48:08 

As long as it didn’t take place at the Overlook Hotel. It was probably very successful

George  48:14 

was that the Overlooked Film Fest…

Hal InPhilly  48:15 

Film Festival? And I was just saying as long as it didn’t take place at the Overlook Hotel, which was, you know, a hotel in The Shining.

George  48:23 

Yeah, The Shining, is that from The Shining?

Hal InPhilly  48:25 

Yeah, I just kind of make a little play on words would have been a good idea.

George  48:31 

We did that show and it. It brought the band back together. So ever since 2007. We’ve been without a manager and still playing, like, ‘cuz in 2007. We ended up playing all year. And literally, all year, all the time. I was still selling cars. We even did a movie with all of us. It’s called Love-In A Celebration of the ’60s with Ben Vereen, and a bunch of people… The Vanilla Fudge, and – Peter & Gordon. Yeah, it had a bunch of people in it. We were… all of us filmed the movie live. And we were all together for like, I don’t know, 10 days or something while we did it.

Hal InPhilly  49:10 

Was, it was a concert movie or it was like a movie with a…

George  49:12 

No, it was a concert. And it was filmed at at this theater in San Diego. But the movies out there, it’s like on You can Google it.

Hal InPhilly  49:23 

Netflix maybe? or Hulu?

George  49:26 

It’s called Love-In A Musical Celebration

Hal InPhilly  49:30 

A Musical Celebration. All right, because if I can find any links to it, I’ll put that in the show notes for the podcast. so other people can track that down. Speaking of which – Where can people…? Do you have… WHat is it… strawberryalarmclock dot com? or THEstrawberryalarm..?

George  49:47 


George  49:48 

It’s StrawberryAlarmClock.com.

Hal InPhilly  49:50 

Do you plan on playing live anywhere, anymore? Or you just kind of just…

George  49:54 

Yeah, now we still do we play we play we’ve been playing every year and yeah Whisky a Go Go July 11th. And there’s another club here in LA, called Bogey’s and we play there twice a year.

Hal InPhilly  50:08 

Do you have any dates at Bogeys? Do you know offhand? Or no.

George  50:11 

No, we just played there in November, the end of November, so we try to separate them. So I don’t know; it’ll be it’ll be after the… Could be in June or something, it might be before.

Hal InPhilly  50:24 

Okay, Bogey’s to be announced Whiskey A-GoGo July 11th.

Unknown Speaker  50:27 


Hal InPhilly  50:28 

You know, just something to delay things acoustically to make them totally different. There might be a way of doing Incense and Peppermints acoustically, and still keep the integrity of the song intact.

George  50:43 

About two years ago, we did a show here at a place called The Guitar Merchant and we did it unplugged. It was our one and only time doing that. And Mark played a grand piano and our guitar players Howie Anderson and Steve Bartek both played acoustic guitars. I played an acoustic bass, but drummers are obviously acoustic.

Hal InPhilly  51:05 


George  51:05 

And it was great. We You know, it was really cool.

Hal InPhilly  51:09 

Did that get recorded?

George  51:10 

I’m not per se, I think i think it kind of did get recorded, but I think, I don’t know, whatever happened to

Hal InPhilly  51:19 

It’s not available. Not available to the…

George  51:20 

I don’t know, the sound guy might have recorded it through, I dunno.  other people were recording things in the audience. Back then. I remember somebody playing me something and I thought, Oh, that’s great. You know, it’s like, cool. It might have even been Incense and Peppermints. Yeah, well 

Hal InPhilly  51:40 

I hope that gets out there somehow. Through you guys. I don’t mean bootlegged. I mean, I hope Yeah, whoever recorded that figures out a way to, you know, get that out to the general public because that sounds very intriguing. Because you are, you’re a psychedelic band and just it’s, it’s It’s almost like an oxy-. It’s almost like an oxymoron to have an acoustic version of a psychedelic song.

George  52:07 

We have been talking about doing it again and every time we get a gig coming up, I know our keyboard player Mark, the keyboard player goes, I want to do it. Let’s do an unplugged. Let’s do it unplugged. And I’m like that play. The two places that we play all the time. Bogey’s and the Whiskey – neither one of them have an acoustic piano and we’re not bringing one. So

Hal InPhilly  52:29 

Find a place it has one and book a gig there because I think that’d be cooler than shhh

George  52:35 

That’s a good idea.

Hal InPhilly  52:36 

I guess I should wrap it up now. It was just great talking to you!

George  52:41 

Well, thanks. And it was fun talking to you too… I hope I didn’t blab too much.

Hal InPhilly  52:45 

There’s no such thing as too much.

George  52:46 

Yeah, the funny thing is it’s such a meandering story, that once you start telling any part of it, you kind of have to bring in all the little factions that contribute to the next part of it – it’s like it’s sort of the neverending story.

Hal  52:47 

Yeah, I think that the confusing part, I think is that so many people that have been in and out of the band, and every time you say another name I’m going, nobody’s ever gonna remember this.

George  53:12 

Well, you know, what’s funny is now, nowadays ever since 2007, we’ve had both drummers Randy Seol and Gene Gunnels. They’re both in the band. And, what it allows us to do is what we originally did, like see Randy, used to go and play the vibraphone. He’d come up off of the drums and play vibes, back in the ’60s. And so we get to do that now because we have Gene that can hold the drums down. Used to be Lee Freeman used to go back and while Randy was playing, Lee would would grab one drumstick and start hitting the ride cymbal. One foot down on a bass drum or whatever, and then he and Randy would slide out from under the drums and go down to the vibes. Now, we have Gene, the other original drummer to do stuff and, and we have new songs and stuff that we do now. We write together still. There’s a lot of fun.

George  53:27 

You know What? What you might want to check out – We, we did another album in 2012 called Wake Up Where You Are. Steve Bartek produced it at his studio. He’s got a state of the art recording studio. And it’s all of us. And then we kept getting asked to do these other little bits, like, we got asked to do a theme song for a documentary called World Ctizen

George  54:37 

This guy gave us a World Citizenship, you know? To go into any country with his one, you know, Citizen Card, you know, right, a passport and, and so we have that song which was just written for that. So that’s on the album. It’s called World Citizen and then there was a couple of other ones. One was a tribute to Sky Saxon. He passed away while we were doing the album. And so his wife asked us to, to record Mr. Farmer as a tribute to The Seeds… it’s for an album that was going to raise money for something or other. But that album never came out. It’s still supposed to come out. It has Billy Corgan and a bunch of other people on it. But… and we did Mr. Farmer which we ended up putting it on this album that we put out along with some of the old songs and some other of new songs. The it’s kind of a mixed up thing as far as albums go. But, we did release it came out in 2012. It’s definitely worth checking out. You’ll you’ll see. Wake Up Where You Are.

Hal InPhilly  55:54 

Wake Up Where You Are. Mr. Farmer, and Who’s it about?

George  55:58 

What Mr. Farmer?

George  55:59 


George  56:00 

That’s a song by The Seeds So it was Sky Saxon and the Seeds – and it was a tribute.

Hal InPhilly  56:06 

Gotcha. All right. I like that title, Wake Up Where You Are. Just in case you plan to wake up somewhere else.

George  56:12 

Yeah. Our guitar player Howie Anderson wrote a song called Wake Up Where You Are. It’s called Wake Up. He’s been with us since 1987. And the rest of the band all played on the first album.

Hal InPhilly  56:25 

Oh, you know what I’m looking at Wikipedia. Actually, I just look at this. Now they have a timeline with the name of everybody and the period that they were in the band. And you can see the gaps. Like for instance, you were there from the 60s up until 70. Then you left for a while came back in 75 and left for a while then you were from 80 something up until now.

George  56:51 


Hal InPhilly  56:52 

So you left twice… Gene Gunnels – Did you ever get your names mixed up you and Gene cuz he was Gunnels and you’re Bunnell…

George  56:59 

Oh yeah! You know what they did? So after I quit the band, after the third album, the band did the fourth album called Good Morning Starshine. And on that album, they all decided to put all their names on all the songs. And so it you know, that everybody shared equal. Well, instead of Gene Gunnels they put George Brunnell. You know, because it just had last names and they thought they thought Gunnels must have Bunnell/ So they put my name on all the songs, but I didn’t get any.

Hal InPhilly  57:35 

Did you ever see the movie Brazil? I don’t think it’s Robert De Niro. The guy’s name was Tuttle, the government mistook Mr. Tuttle for Mr. Buttle and, and Tuttle. The guy who they were after was like this rogue air conditioner repairment you see like if your air conditioner breaks, the government has to repair it. This took place in like a you know, like a futuristic world. So this guy Buttle who worked as a, like a mild mannered accountant. All the sudden these government people come down through his roof and they abduct them and he separates him from his family. And Tuttle who’s Robert De Niro Who’s this rogue air conditioner repairman, is like in and out Clandestine. Repairing air conditioners on the sly and then disappearing into the night. I’m gonna have to check that out. It was made by one of the Monte Python guys.

George  58:29 

I’m gonna check it out.

Hal InPhilly  58:31 

All right, George was great talking to you and I’ll get back in touch with you like after I get around to editing this and I’m gonna go listen to listen to Incense and PeppermintsI while I eat a cookie.

George  58:42 

All right, very good. Go check out our album. I’m going to you know in headphones!

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Posted by Hal in bass player, psychodelic rock music, singer, songwriter, 0 comments

Cowboy Mach Bell

Cowboy Mach Bell Show Notes
Once A Rocker Always A Rocker, a Road Warrior, a Teacher and and Author

Cowboy Mach BellTales of the Road Warriors!  This is the first full-length interview of 2020 and my guest is Cowboy Mach Bell. Since this is a longish episode, I’ll just give you a brief rundown about who I’m talking to, and the rest, you’ll discover during our conversation.

During the early days of Aerosmith, (yes… THAT Aerosmith) Joe Perry, their notorious and much adored lead guitarist and Steve Tyler’s right hand man – left the band to start his own band, the Joe Perry Project. He put out three solo albums, each with a different lead singer, before ultimately, and inevitabley rejoining Aerosmith and taking his place one again alongside Steve Tyler.

The lead singer on the third Joe Perry Project album, containing the title song, Once a Rocker, Always a Rocker, is my guest on today’s episode… Cowboy Mach Bell. By the way,  Once a Rocker, Always a Rocker – a Diary is also the name of Mach’s book; based on a journal he kept during his old road warrior  days with the band. You’ll find a link on the show notes page to Mach’s website where you can get yourself a copy of Once a Rocker, Always a Rocker – a Diary,  a well as links to some videos of his earlier live performances with the Joe Perry Project- and also with his first band called Thundertrain.

That’s all you really need to know going in – So, let’s join the conversation, already in progress…


Outskirts of Boston, Flutie, sports fans, rocks and jocks, team songs,    

The 80’s transitions – Led Zeppelin, Joe Perry, Ted Nugget, Ozzy Osbourne,  New Wave, The Cars, Elvis Costello, the Police, Van Halen.
The emergence of heavy metal and hair bands in 1984 –  Quiet Riot, Motley Crue, Warrant, Guns & Roses, etc.
The cello, fuzz tone, was wah pedals, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix
First band Thundertrain in 1977
The song, Hot For Teacher and the David Lee Roth connection
CBGBs, Max’s Kansas City. Shared stage with Runaways, Mink DeVille, Thin Lizzy
Dealing with rejection. Work at Dad’s audio store. The call from Joe Perry’s people.
Joe Perry’s seizure. Hitting bottom. Helping through his recovery.
Venezuela Story
The Diary
The Truck Stop Story
My Michael Winslow Story
Aerosmith comes back for Joe.
The “Cowboy” Nickname Story
Working with the kids

Links and Media

Cowboy Mach Bell

Cowboy Mach Bell’s Website
Reviews, more interviews and purchase a copy of Once A Rocker, Always a Rocker – A Diary by Cowboy Mach Bell

Thundertrain  Thundertrain Videos on Youtube

Once A Rocker Video – Joe Perry Project featuring Cowboy Mach Bell

Posted by Hal in lead singer, Road Warriors, rock, rock and roll, 0 comments

Tales of the Road Warriors- Best of 2019

Sex Drugs, Rock ‘n Roll
Heart, Mind, Spirit ‘n Soul

This episode contains the “best of” audio clips from episodes uploaded throughout 2019. Included:


Best-of-Dan May

Best-of-Liz Miller

Best of Kenn Kweder

Andy Cahan – Streaking and BJs

Jay-David’s  Nancy Sinatra and Clive Davis stories

James Lee Stanley – Whole Lotta Luck

Jon Michaels – Lemons to Lemonade

Laura Cheadle – Marketing Her Shows

Lee Totten-Grammy/Argyle Hotel Story

Phil Leavitt – Bill Murray Story

Posted by Hal in Best of 2019, 0 comments

Discovering David Bowie

Discovering David Bowie  – Show Notes

The Man Who Sold Space on his Sandwich Sign

Yo! What is UP??  This is Hal in Philly – flying solo with a little story for all you David Bowie fans!   I discovered him, you know. Okay, not really. I think we all felt that way about Bowie at some time or another. He was something, else, wasn’t he? Well, I’m not going to waste any more time getting into it, so welcome and enjoy one of my very own, true (with pictures to prove it)… Tales of the Road Warriors!

It started just after I had spent 7 months in Israel in 1971, on a kibbutz, where I met some very cool people from all over the world – including Boston,  Massachusetts.

Upon my return to Philly, I still had the traveling bug. so when an opportunity for a very unique job in Boston’s Harvard Square came up, I grabbed it. Not only to get out of my parents house, but to appease that sense of adventure that I had acquired abroad.

Before Israel, the furthest I had ever ventured from home was the Jersey Shore. Well, I wasn’t about to pass this up.

I was always one of those people who could spot a superstar before they became famous; Bowie was one of those soon to be superstars.

Back in the sixties and early seventies, the place where all the hippies usually ended up was Rittenhouse Square. It was like a love-in almost every day. People mostly just hanging out in the park, playing music, being stoned or – just. Being.

A couple blocks away was the Sansom Street boutique area. Sansom Street was Philly’s answer to MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village in New York or Haight Street in the Haight/ Asbury section of San Francisco. There were head shops where we’d go to get hash pipes, bongs and rolling papers, clothing stores selling elephant bell bottoms, and tie-dyed everything, coffee houses, secret concert venues and a record store that always smelled like patchouli oil and incense, where you could buy patchouli oil and incense, full length albums and 45 singles like the Strawberry Alarm Clock’s Incense and Peppermints. See what I did there? 

On this particular occasion, I was rifling through the 99 cent bin. The albums in the 99 cent bin were mostly by local artists who’s music had never and would never seen the light of day, or perhaps had  a very small cult following.

At some point, this odd looking cartoon on the cover of an album in the bin caught my eye. I picked up this odd looking album and began reading the lyrics to the songs – (in those days, it was common for the song lyrics to be printed on the back of an album jackets). I stood in the store poring over every word. This was some pretty dark stuff, but incredible lyrics, and decided I HAD to hear what the music sounded like. So, for 99 cents, I figured, what the Hell? So, I bought it and took it home.

The first listen spoiled me for the first time since the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan. This new sound, to me, was fucking amaze-balls! From that point forward, for a very long time, for me, the “new Beatles” was David Bowie, Mick Ronson, Trevor Bolder and Mike Garson – produced by Tony Visconti (who for me was the “New George Martin”)

As I was saying earlier, during my stay in Israel, I met a few people from Boston, Massachussets and one of them had a friend from Bayonne, New Jersey who had started a sandwich sign business. Well, one thing lead to another and to make a long story short, I ended up working for this guy. He had several accounts with merchants  who owned businesses and shops in and around Harvard Square, which was kind of Their Greenwich Village at the time.

No shit. Top hat, hair back in a big bushy ponytail, a harmonica, and a bicycle horn! My job was to stroll up and down the streets of Harvard Square wearing a sandwich sign advertising the local shops and playing music doing my one-man-band thing. Among my sponsors was a suede and leather shop, a shoe store, a deli, a bakery and a women’s clothing boutique.

harvard square 001One day, I was doing my sandwich man thing… just strolling up the street, sporting my black top hat, ponytail, playing my harmonica and occasionally tooting the bicycle horn, when, a straight-looking guy in a suit approached me. In fact, in those days, we literally referred to guys like that as “suits”. So, this “suit” asked me if he could rent my entire sandwich sign, front and back, for two weeks. He went on to explain that he worked for RCA Records and they had just acquired a new artist from Mercury, and would it be cool to advertise his upcoming new album this way?

WIthout missing a beat I asked, “Is his name David Bowie?” The guy’s jaw dropped. He must have thought I was psychic. After telling him the story of how I had discovered his album the previous year, we had a good laugh and sure enough, he ended up “renting me” to promote the “Ziggy Stardust” album with my sandwich sign and one-man strolling show. To this day, I feel I was an integral part of introducing the David Bowie phenomena to the world. Well, at least to Harvard Square. And that’s the story.

I never met Bowie. But I did see him in concert at least a dozen times. I went to the shows at the Tower Theater in Philadelphia where his live album – DAVID LIVE was recorded. You can still hear my voice shouting and screaming from the audience between some of the songs – I was in the front row and even got to touch his hand during “Rock and Roll Suicide”.

Bowie died much too soon, January 10, 2016 that the age of 69, after suffering from liver cancer for a year and half. Only two days after releasing his very dark and prophetic 25th album titled Blackstar. Today is January 23rd; the anniversary of his passing was just a couple weeks before I recorded this episode. Thank you for listening.

In closing, I would like to request that you subscribe to Tales of the Road Warriors on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Stitcher, Spreaker or your podcast app of choice. A five star rating would be awesome, too, if you’d be so kind. In the coming weeks, stay tuned for a best of 2019 episode and guests including Mach Bell of the Joe Perry Project, George  Bunnell of the  Strawberry Alarm Clock, and I’m thinking about on a live taping of of the show when I find the right venue. Please leave comments, questions and suggestions  on the show notes page at talesoftheroadwarriors.com/discovering-david-bowie

Okay, that’s it! Time to warm up the car. I’m going for a drive.

Posted by Hal, 0 comments

Dan Navarro

A Road Warrior’s Warrior

Dan Navarr0

 First- I’d like to wish everyone a Happy whatever you’re celebrating today. Me? I celebrate all of the holidays. I want every Christmas to be merry, every Chanukah to be Chappy, every Kwansa to be blessed for you and yours, and a fabulous Festivous for the rest of us!

Okay Second,  when have a chance – subscribe t0 Tales of the Road Warriors on your favorite podcast app or go to talesoftheroadwarriors.com and subscribe!. If you listen on Apple Podcasts – please subscribe and rate this podcast 5-stars. It is much appreciated!

Third – if you’d like to sponsor Tales of the Road Warriors let’s talk! Email me Hal in Philly at halinphilly@gmail.com

Okay! That’s it! Time for the holiday episode with a true road warrior, Dan Navarro best known for being in the super duo Lowen and Navarro – writers of We Belong, the mega hit for Pat Benatar. It has since been recorded by several others and featured in many movies, tv shows and including Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,  Pitch Perfect 2,  Deadpool 2, and the season one finale of Dynasty and In the season 3 Finale of Santa Clarita Diet and just recently in a new Pepsi commercial.

Unfortunately, we lost Eric Lowen in 2012 to ALS otherwise known as Lou Gerhigs Disease. It was a terrible  blow the songwriting  community. But Dan Navarro continues to soldier on. He is a true road warrior in every sense. In fact, when I talked with Dan, he was in his car on the way from a gig the night before in Lancaster, Pennsylvania – to Baltimore, 45 miles.

Going into this conversation, I knew we had some mutual friends, but it wasn’t until I was listening to this episode while I was editing it, that I realized that I had seen and

heard Lowen and Navarro a few times at the Poppy’s Star in Encino. I remember always being struck by their hamonies and hilarious banter. We worked for the same guy, but at different restaurants, and to be honest, I never stopped to introduce myself at the time, because it was usually after a shift waiting tables in the other room and entertaining my own customers while Lowen and Navarro were entertaining the customers in the bar. I remember thinking  – Wow , these guys are amazing! I did stay and listen one night and got to listen to their angelic harmonies and hilarious banter. But I couldn’t stay, because I got lucky that night and left with a school teacher I met at the bar.  Well, I’m really glad I had a chance to catch up with Dan Navarro this time around. Better late than never, right?

A few nights before this conversation this took place, I attended a Dan Navarro show at a tiny listening room in Ardmore, PA. The owner, Laura Mann is a singer songwriter, herself and has co-written some songs with Dan. So when he comes to town, he’ll usually do a show there.

BTW – Laura often sits in with Dan for several songs and – all I can say is wow wow wow WOW. I’ll see if I can get Laura to share some of her on a future episode.

Okay, so now – Let’s check in with Dan Navarro – – –

Dan Navarro Links

Dan’s Website


Lowen and Navarro


High Pockets in Hollywood

Great American Food and Beverage Company

Ricki Lee Jones, Katie Sagal, Jamie Sheriff, Eric Lowen

Voiceover community. Not meeting Lombardo Boyar

Missing a ramp during the conversation

Listing a variety of mishaps hat happen and responding with humor and finding the good in every situation.

Future dates.

All Wood and Led with James Lee Stanley

How to say “Good Luck” to a Musician

Dan Navarro on TotRW – Full Transcript

Hal InPhilly  0:00

How’s the road treating you?

Dan Navarro  0:02

You know, the road is good right now it’s not that’s not that cold outside, compared to yesterday, went down to 27 degrees last night. Lancaster, Pennsylvania, I’m on my way to Baltimore 45 miles away and have an afternoon show. That’s my last one of 2019. And, umm… Life is good!

Hal InPhilly  1:08

I actually saw you for the very first time here in Philly. Well, Ardmore, and you had a special guest, Laura man. Right, playing with, you know how that collaboration…

Dan Navarro  1:21

Well Laura, actually I met through a mutual friend, who was her manager at the time, a guy named Alan Hale, who worked with me at high pockets back in the late 70s. And so he became a you know, he had a band, he became a songwriter, because obviously, as no one knows better than you everybody who works there has to play and say, you know, the band part didn’t quite work out. He got fairly productive as a songwriter. And then he, you know, got a couple of publishing deals, and then he started becoming a manager. And he said, I want you to work with this young woman that I’m working with named Laura Mann, and this was probably 25 years ago. And we’ve stayed in touch over the years. She’s had a fairly, you know, very successful massage business and she still pursues her musical dream, puts records out every few years and decided to open this venue. So, I was one of the early actually booked me in it about a year and a half ago. It’s but I think it’s the third of the fourth time I played it. You know, it’s gone really well. It’s been I mean, it’s … Philadelphia had always been a tough play for me. The Tin Angel, we would do reasonably well. And we only played World Cafe Live once, and it didn’t go well. And, you know, we never played the Main Point.  Eric, and I didn’t do well on WXPN. So consequently, we didn’t have a whole lot of radio to push audience to us. So we were kind of slogging around a little bit time. But

Hal InPhilly  2:44

I’m surprised because, Philadelphia is usually a very good place to play. A lot of musicians like Philly, but they can be really hard on an act too.

Dan Navarro  2:57

Well, the thing is that it’s not so much the town was hard. We got our live following pretty much from radio in the early 90s. We, you know, put our first record out in 1990 Lowen and Navarro, and we cracked about 50 stations nationwide. And we were able to go play those areas and the crowds were big and strong. I mean, we were drawing 200 to 700 people a night depending on where we’re playing. But there were certain pieces that never came to the party Philly never really came. I mean, we played world cafe with David die once, but XP had never really got into us. Only Pennsylvania action was WYEP Pittsburgh, you know, consequently, it’s always been like for me in Pennsylvania. Never played Godfrey Daniels Allentown wasn’t really a place for us. Washington DC was super, super, super strong. And I could still do eight to 10 shows a year in the DC area and tend to play Philadelphia once now lately, twice a year. It’s you know, it’s just the luck of the draw.

Hal InPhilly  4:00

Well, you seem to have, like packed                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   the room when I was there and the crowd was great.

Dan Navarro  4:07

Well, thank you it is a smaller audience, but I would rather and this is part of my my touring philosophy. fulfill promoter expectations, I would rather drop 50 people to a 50 seat room, then 100 people to a 200 seat room. Not a good room. And Laura’s really great and Lauren, I’ve written together three songs over the years wrote one back in the 90s, one in the early us and one only a few months ago. So I mean, literally 90s and teens, we seem to do a song every decade.

Hal InPhilly  4:39

Now, you mentioned high pockets about a minute ago. A lot of people probably probably don’t get that reference. So you want to talk a little bit about those days.

Dan Navarro  4:49

Sure. Back in back in the 70s into the 80s. There was a restaurant in LA called the Great American food and beverage company that had a flagship location in Santa Monica and Every employee in the hosts hostesses, waiters, barman, busboys, all had to perform. It was part of the ethos that you were it was, you know, singing Raiders. And unlike a lot of places where singing waiters were doing show tunes, or opera or something very specialized, you do whatever you want. And on so a lot of songwriters and artists went through their, on their way up or on their way down, or as a place to stay musical while doing a reasonable day gig with a flexible schedule. They had three locations one in Westwood Village called the small cafe that wasn’t around long and one called high pockets specialize in pita pocket sandwiches on top of the normal ribs and chicken and and omelets and these I think these things called the orgies that was like this massive ice cream tree.

Hal InPhilly  5:53

Yeah, you know, I used to work behind the bar there with Llyn Blaikie in the Santa Monica,

Dan Navarro  6:00

Blakie, and these names man these names I remember Llyn. Llyn Blaikie is a Facebook friend to this day, I worked at GA  a few days I worked there for a very short time in the early 70s like 73, 74 and then I kind of went away. I’ve developed strong friendships with people over at High Pockets, which was in West Hollywood, at Santa Monica and La Cienega. And so I was hanging out there. And one day I started said, you know, why don’t I just get paid for this because I’m hanging out and playing and I was working at Tower Records at the time in Westwood Village, and I realized I could work one fewer day a week, make the same exact pay plus tips and play music and hang with my friends so I could tower mp3 years and went to go work overnight pockets and I spent three years there. You know, the thing is, it was to some it was you know, they thought they were being full time musicians and nobody really was. Bands came out of it. An artist came out of it. Rickie Lee Jones worked with the one in Santa Monica. Katey Sagal as we’ve talked about, you know, the actor is also a musician. Had a band called The band with no name with my god with Alan Miles and Jimmy Lott and Carolyn Ray and Franny whose last name I can’t remember his friend McCartey now? Yeah, McCartney. And they did a record for Casa Blanca. Peter Tork. work there for a little minute. You know, the one where I was. Cindy Lee Berryhill work there. Robert romantics and actor who was in Fast Times at ridgemont High was a cook. And so people would filter through there, you know, during certain periods in their careers and their lives when they needed the steadiness of a real job. Except I met my lifelong music partner Eric Lowen, and you know, we cracked it as songwriters and became artists and loan in a bottle together. And that’s where I met him. I wouldn’t have known him otherwise. And you know, Severin Brown was there and 70s a real close friend of mine, but I came in because I was close with Severin and close with a guy named Lawrence Cohen. And so I basically hung out with my two best friends and got to do this. But it also taught me something. It taught me how to perform when people were not paying attention. It taught me how to project and not just pull everything in really tightly and gave me the ability to perform with some energy. You know, we talked about Jamie Sheriff and put a record out on Polydor and done a lot of recording since. Jamie was the first one to turn me on to the places that I’m working at this place and on the Great American Food and Beverage Company. It finally closed down in the early early to mid 80s.

Hal InPhilly  8:35


Dan Navarro  8:36

most of us, many of us are still in touch with a good dozen people from those days.

Hal InPhilly  8:42

Did you go to the party at Richard Barron’s studio after Poppy passed away? We had like a reunion there. I did.

Dan Navarro  8:49

Yeah, I did. the one on Hollywood Boulevard?

Hal InPhilly  8:51

Yeah, yeah,

Hal InPhilly  8:52

Yeah, I did go to that party. And there have been reunions since that I haven’t been able to make and there’s a Facebook page for people from that era. You know, from both the three GA restaurants and also from Poppy’s Star, which is a restaurant he started after he sold out of great American. Yeah, Poppy, was it? Yeah, Poppy was a figure and a half, man, a remarkable man. And it was an approach to life. It was an approach to art. Friendships. I mean, it was the 70s. So let’s just say there was a lot of intramural dating. It was a kick.

When Lowen Met Navarro

Hal InPhilly  9:25

So he so you met Eric Lowen in there?

Dan Navarro  9:27

I met Eric low in there. Eric had come to the restaurant as a customer with an artist named Bert Sommer that he had played with on capital. They’ve had a deal on capital. He was a side guy. And Bert is kind of the number was upstate New York guy who had been in Hair, and he had also been an artist at Woodstock. He was one of the only people who didn’t make the movie at once in Woodstock, which is unfortunate, because his manager Artie Kornfeld was one of the organizers of Woodstock. So, Eric and Burt are there Five pockets, you know, sitting outside on the rail, right? And they’re kind of going –  Burt’s kind of being derisive on Lou these chops. This is us in two years.  (laughing) – Two years later they got dropped by Capital.

Dan Navarro  10:13

Eric went audition immediately and got a job. He ended up replacing me for three weeks when I went on the road with severan Brown and Lisa Sobel playing, you know, clubs in and around Portland and Seattle. When I got back, he had my gig. I was a Saturday night bus boy. So they made me a Saturday night, as they may be a daytime lunch busboy and then a daytime lunch waiter and the tips were really dreadful. Three weeks was all it took for me to get my shift back, but they made Eric the manager. So part of our legend is that we did not like each other. He was a usurper. He went from taking my job to being my boss. And He was tall and blonde and beautiful and I had a D 28. He had a D 35. So, big high money

Dan Navarro  11:06

Guild guys,

Dan Navarro  11:07

Umm, uhh… Martin’s. Martins!

Hal InPhilly  11:11

Oh, OK, ’cause I had a Guild D35. So I was thinking Guild when you said that

Dan Navarro  11:14

D 35 in Guild is a different guitar but yeah, they call it because they were dragged down shape. That’s what the D stands for. Right? And I hated him. I just thought he was a dick. And he did not like me much either. I thought he was full of himself and I thought I was full of myself. And you know, we were not wrong.

Dan Navarro  11:31

One night, we’re hanging out after hours and doing, you know, singing together with everybody, as we often did, because it was really the hub of our social lives. And we started to sing harmonies with somebody. We both hit the same note, heard that and both instinctively moved to the note of third below. Both of us heard that and both went back up to the original node. And I look at looked at him. I made a sideways V sideways peace sign with my fingers and flippped them went from the palm of my hand in the back of my hand, just basically going switch! He stayed high. I stayed low, and we locked and it was like, “Man, really?”

Dan Navarro  12:17

You’re the one?? Oh, and we, there was nothing in my life that was ever easier or emotionally more fulfilling instantly than singing right there with Lowen. And we had it! Whatever it was. The tambors The blend. The ability to follow each other. We both frankly sang kind of loud, We couldn’t sing softly, we sang kind of loud, so we weren’t really singing harmonies, we were singing competing leads when we worked together. And you know that so we decided one day, you know what we’re playing Saturday nights now. It’s was the hot night at the restaurant. Let’s learn some songs to up the ante and we rehearse some things. And we were packed from that moment on new Literally Saturday nights were absolutely jam packed always. And it became really fun. We did that for close to two years, 79 and 80. And then at the very beginning of 1980, I left to go live in London. I wanted to start a band with him he didn’t want to. And a lot wasn’t working for me anymore. I had  broken up with my girlfriend. I had a second job and my boss was gonna move to London. And he, you know, I’m losing my second job, my girlfriend’s gone. My friend doesn’t want to start a band. So I said, You know what, I’m going to London with you. And right before I moved, Eric said, Hey, I’m ready. Let’s start a band, you know, and then I’m moving on moving overseas. So for a year, we communicated by telephone from London to LA. And that’s where our friendship really deepened. And I came back and we joined a band that was lead by another High Pockets guy named Mark Bryson, that was called Bon Mott. Used to play all the local clubs, Madam Wongs West, Madam Wongs East – you know, Blue Lagune, Hop Sing’s. And

Hal InPhilly  14:05

Did you play At My Place?

Dan Navarro  14:07

We did At My Place once or twice. We weren’t quite slick enough for At My Place because we were kind of trying to do the the skinny tie band thing. Truth told that we were we wound up. We discovered this later, we didn’t do it on purpose. As they came out, we realized we were cross between Huey Lewis in the news and Men at Work. We did not copy them. They came out after us. Well, they didn’t copy us. I didn’t know anything about us. But

Hal InPhilly  14:34

That’s a good blend. I like that

Dan Navarro  14:36

it was but we were pushing a sound that was already hits for somebody else. So it sounded like we were following.

Hal InPhilly  14:43


Dan Navarro  14:43

So we never we never got signed. And we got close a couple of times. But out of that, I get sort of asked to leave the band in 1983. I got came back from England in 81. And join that band and we’re doing studying to anyone at Two and a half at three. I leave the band, and I’m dying on the vine and Eric calls up one day says, hey, let’s write a song together. He was not much of a writer. he’d written four songs and his whole life through him with me. I’d been a steady writer, I joined the band because he basically said, we’re doing a couple of your songs, why don’t you come join the band? And they did that when I came home from England. Well, so basically, Eric and I decided to get together to write this song for no reason. And that was “We Belong”. And a year later, it changed our lives. I mean, it kind of just, I mean, there isn’t anything successful I’ve ever done in my life that was easier than that. It’s like It’s like all the doors opened.

Hal InPhilly  15:47

How did you first learn that you know about the song being picked up and your reaction? What was that like?

Dan Navarro  15:56

Well, I mean, I wanted to soil myself basically,  Eric started taking it around to publishers. And interestingly, of course, typical of our relationship. I said, for God’s sake, don’t put the ballad on it, but all the up tempo stuff, they’re not even gonna bother to listen to the ballad and demo sucks. Well, he did it anyway. He said, Sure, absolutely anything you say and then he did when he pleased. And he took it around to several publishers, all of them rejected it. I mean, CBS Music, Bug Music, I think we took it to Almo Irving, and took it to, we took it to a friend it was an A&R guy at EMI Records, and he loved it, and wanted to place it with somebody but wasn’t able to get it off the ground. We had a mere placement with an artist, we didn’t really want to do it. And so we went back to Jamie Cohen, who’s the guy at EMI and said, Man, you gotta do something. And he said, I’ll tell you what, I’ll give it to the publishing guy. He gave it to the publishing guy and the publishing guy sat on it for about three or four months. calls up at one point said there’s there’s nothing for us here. And thanks very much. Two months later, out of the blue, he calls up Eric and says, I want you to do a handshake deal with me. I got an idea for the song for a major female artist. And one week later we found out it was finished. Wow. Now since then we’re of the belief that an either intentionally or accidentally ended up in a box of tapes. And they realized they didn’t have a deal on the song that she started. Let’s just throw this into. And she pulled that out of the box and said, I want to do this one. I give her credit for Amazing, amazing ears to hear what she can do with it, and what it would be on it. It blew our minds. I was still I was working in advertising. Eric had already closed high pockets and was painting houses part time.

Hal InPhilly  17:53

Well, it absolutely spoke to her obviously.

Dan Navarro  17:56

It really did. She was she was pregnant with her first child. She wanted to do something different than all the rockers she was getting. And it worked, you know, so that’s what kind of did it. We were terrified. I mean, sitting there realizing that she had won three Grammys in a row or maybe even for my first thought is, oh my god, this is first single, this is gonna be a hit. I can’t believe I mean, I was stunned. And we just rode that wave. I didn’t quit my job till six months after the record came out. But we decided to dive headfirst we had friends saying, you know, Dan, keep your day job, take the money and buy a house. And now I’m diving. I want to you know, I’ve wanted this and I’m going to take the chance I’m going to take the break and, and go for this and Dove headfirst into the professional songwriter world. started another band to try to capitalize on but I wasn’t in that band because I quit the other one. That was a source of a lot of friction. I did that for three years and then said, you know, I’m not digging this friction, I’m going to start working with other people because I want to say that the band that came up out of it was called 20 times. And Eric, it was not doing well. It was another situation of three years and not getting a deal with all this time. So I got Eric was the lead singer of that band. And I was writing with them for them, and I was helping produce them, but I wasn’t a member of the band. And I’m not like that. Part of it is when the band started, I was still working my day job. I didn’t really they didn’t want three guitar players. And I didn’t play keyboards very well. Right. So they just said there’s no real spot for you, which I resented. I did get invited into the band at the very end, just standing there playing tambourine and singing, you know, co leads like Gene Clark used to birds and outlasted one show before three of the other guys quit to do other things. The band broke up. But in the meantime, right around then Eric said, I got this idea. Let’s go play. Let’s go to know amp night at the central which is now the Viper Room. Right? And let’s do this acoustic duo we’ve been talking about for seven years. We decided to do it just as a lark. Three months later, we started doing a weekly at a seafood restaurant in Mar VISTA called the breakaway. Oh, that actually became the hub of the scene. Right? When we started it wasn’t but we were doing two sets. And we were given a third set away to friends. And we started curating a night there every Wednesday night for two years. And that’s what

Hal InPhilly  20:38

we’re going to do the open mic at the marvista at the at the breakaway.

Dan Navarro  20:43

Yeah, and you know, Jay Tedeschi was bucking that we were one of the first xe booked, we held down Wednesday nights and you know, there was something about the regular play and doing it every week that it started to get good and we also started develop to develop The stage persona that was essentially no different than Smothers Brothers, we started making fun of each other and cracking jokes at each other’s expense. And then we would do these gut wrenching ballads. And then they were jokes and each other’s expense. You know, we kind of learned the stage crap that we never quite learned in the old days. I mean, by the time I started doing it, man, I was 1988. I was 36 years old. And I’m starting to play out after five or six years, I mean, that was four years, really, because I left I left my mom in 83, so five years and not playing the band, or singing regularly. And all of a sudden, I’m going to do and I had to get my guitar chops up and I had to, you know, get my voice suit and wear out and get happen. somebody walked in one night I didn’t know the hell we were in the non cool we were. He come in because we had some backups on the record on this guy’s label. This is Stephen powers over chameleon. We sang on a walking wounded record. He goes Who are these backing sex You know, that’s low in the world. So came in to see us. And he offered us a deal on chameleon. We’re going like, do you have any idea how uncool we are? I don’t know. I like what I heard. So we did our first record at 38 and 39 years old figuring Well, we’ll just 3738 we’ll see how long we can keep this ball in the air. And December 14, is the 2019 is the 30th anniversary of starting the first album.

Hal InPhilly  22:29

That is very cool. See, you really weren’t as uncool as you thought when I was 36 – 36-years old, I was bartending at Jerry’s famous deli. Oh my god. I was rubbing elbows with very famous people, but usually by accident, I would brush their elbow while setting their drink down.

Dan Navarro  22:47

For the grace of God, man because like I said, we got lucky with We Belong. I consider it to be a fluke. But because we had the energy and of course the income to be able to just dive into the community of songwriters and we do Didn’t get a publishing deal in 86 we’re writing with everybody we’re pitching to everybody. We managed a couple of cuts here and there. Dionne Warwick cut one of my songs Four Tops got one of Eric’s. None of them were heads but they were album tracks in the day when an album track could make you some money. You can make 1015 grand off a ride along on a million selling album by having an album track. In 87… Really the very tail end of 86 we’ve had a bit of another bit of good fortune in that we started. We became friends with Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles, and they were getting ready to make another record and they were trying to handle it all themselves. So she said let’s write together. And we wrote two songs with her.  One of them ended up on the final bangles album. One of them later ended up as an unreleased track on the Greatest Hits along with that other track and Michael Steele from the Bangles I had actually known from my Tower Records days in the late 70s, so, she’s kind of going like, “Well, here you are!” She knew that I’d become a songwriter and had a cut when I was at the record store. So she said, Well, let’s write together. So I wrote a song with her, David White, and Eric, that also ended up on a Bangles record. So I was getting cuts here and there, and some of them were doing better than others. But we still wanted to be artists. And I gotta say, from the moment we got signed to Chameleon, we almost never wrote songs to try to pitch. We wrote songs for us. And they were artists songs instead of generic cut songs. Which means our cuts went way down. We still got cuts but, very, very rarely. But we were doing great on the road and the songwriting world as we’re holding up. Coincidentally with that, in 88, I started doing session work as a singer again, at 36 years old. I broke into the session world first time doing Spanish language jingles. And from there I moved it into Spanish and English language movies. And I’ve moved into voiceovers and I’m still doing a couple of movies in here.

Hal InPhilly  25:10

I meant to ask you to know, Lombardo Boyar.

Dan Navarro  25:16

I don’t. I don’t know on bottom we are. Oh, is that a voiceover guy?

Hal InPhilly  25:20

Oh, yeah. He Yeah, he was on Happy Feet. And he did the voice of the Mariachi in Coco.

Dan Navarro  25:29

That’s interesting because I did both movies. I did the voice of I sang Leader of the Pack in Happy Feet for the character that Carlos Alazraqui voiced, but I had the vocal on that. I did a couple of other tunes.

Hal InPhilly  25:47

That’s why I thought you’d might have met him. Yeah, but then again, when you do voiceovers, you don’t always meet the people you work with

Dan Navarro  25:52

You don’t see the people you work with at all. And, in fact, I left the studio I went I also did backing vocals with with a 10 voice group on two sons on Coco. Proud got us on and invoke a logo. So we worked on the same things, but I’ve never met him. Well, I’ll tell you what,

Hal InPhilly  26:11

do you know who he is? I don’t know anything about him. No. Okay, well anyway, if you want to really get a taste of Lombardo Boyar, there’s a movie it’s on Sci-Fi network, but but you can find it online. It’s called Big Ass spider. Okay, and he plays in it. He he plays a security guard who teams up with an exterminator played by Greg Grunberg And they have to kill this spider that was created in a laboratory that close to immense proportions, but it’s very tongue in cheek

Dan Navarro  26:46

I’ll check it out. The Voice Actor community is a very tightly knit group of people. I know a lot of people in a largely because I started in in 2000. Doing Walla, which is unidentifiable background sounds not a particular character on family guy in American Dad. It’s a side career that has brought me 31 years of Screen Actors Guild health insurance, to pensions want an outside and one and after that I can literally draw anytime I want. So somehow in the midst of this songwriter thing and artists thing, I developed this voice thing. And so I’ve really had these three separate areas of career on discrete pads that don’t really cross, you know, and it’s been it’s been weird and fun, but part of it is just the whole mentality of you asked me if I can do something… Unless it’s sing like Cyndi Lauper – I’ll say yes. And if I don’t know how to do it, I’ll learn by morning. And if you have to dress in a pink gown, so dressing up pink gown you do it. That was such a fun session to do I dressed in a pink choir room to sing  backups to Camilla Cabello on the on The Ellen show that aired two days ago. Pretty wild

Hal InPhilly  28:01

I’m guilty… I checked it out.

Dan Navarro  28:04

I’m getting a lot of heat for that in a fun way and people going, Oh, cutie pie. But you know, it’s good fun man. And, and the thing is that I know, people who do what we do, who kind of say, Well, I don’t do this, I don’t do that. And my attitude is – I’ll do anything. I mean, it’s not that I don’t have pride or scruples, what it is, is I take a lot of pride in fulfilling a job. You know, someone says, “Can you do this?” and I can pull it off” I enjoy that I take pride in it. There isn’t virtually anything. I’m going to say. “I can’t do that”. Now that said at least three times, people have said I want to hire you to do a country vocal for Coca Cola. And I want you know, that’s really cool, but I know somebody better and I give me your number, which has always endeared me to that producer because you’re giving up a lot of money. Here I go, Yeah, but you’re going to be much happier with what this guy does, and they call me later. You know, it’s happened more than a couple of times. It’s just how I roll.

Hal InPhilly  29:04

I can dig it

Dan Navarro  29:05

You know, I’ve been recommended for things there was a period of time with Billy Steinberg was sending me cowrites that he didn’t have time to do you know, not as it turned out, none of them turned into anything but that’s not the point. You know, I mean, there’s nothing I would love more than Billy Steinberg’s castoffs and I don’t mean that derisively I mean, exactly the opposite. If he didn’t have time to have a recommendation from Billy counts for a lot in my world,

Hal InPhilly  29:30

When you did co writes and collaborations with others. diid you make appointments to get together sit in the same room or did you do it over the phone? How did it, how did it usually work wih you?

Dan Navarro  29:43

I’ve done it every which way. Usually I’ll get the same room and try to start something from scratch. Sometimes something would happen sometimes it wouldn’t. I’ve done situations where I’ve been brought in to doctor existing songs. I’ve done a few cowrites over the phone, Skype is much easier because you can see people and actually true nowadays FaceTime is easiest, ’cause I’m a Mac guy and an iPhone guy. Way back in the 90s. I did a cowrite with Gretchen Peters. That was by fax. She faxed us the lyric. I moved some things around, wrote some stuff in there and send it back to her. And like, three hours later, she was, “That was fast” and the lyrics spoke to me. We added like maybe one verse to what she did and kind of move some lines around. But we did that by fax. This is way this is you know, I had a computer but I didn’t really have email because I wasn’t on the internet. This was ninety-… Oh god, what year was that? It was 95 I don’t think I got the internet on 97

Hal InPhilly  30:44

I must say the other night when I saw you at the living room. And I thought the show was over you got down off the stage. You did this whole acoustic with no electricity and was like a sing along at a campfire.

Dan Navarro  31:00

It was pretty wild, it’s it’s you know it. It’s really dynamic. It’s not passive silence people have to keep stone quiet or they can’t hear. And 1000 people will keep stone quiet if you’re in that situation and they know they’re not going to hear you any other way. So they, when they’re allowed to cheer the it’s usually an explosion. We’ve been doing it for you know, I mean, we now I, of course, Eric Lowen retired in 2008 and passed away in 2012 ALS, but I, I’ve been doing it since we started in 1989. Just because it was a fun, cool, weird thing to do. And I’ve seen others aren’t, you know, we opened for the Bodeans, 17 shows in 1993. And they started doing it. Once in a while they would credit us I didn’t really mind that. I mean, I got it from Steve Wynn, you know, so I didn’t make it up. I didn’t mind that they didn’t credit us and we didn’t own it. But it did lead to a friend pretty close friendship with Sam Llannis of the Bodeans. Now he went on his own about eight years ago, because he basically said you taught you guys taught me something about the essence of true performance. These are the kinds of things that you know the road stories are often about logistical stories. Highways, hotels, overbearing fans, blown up sound systems. But the thing about the road stories the ability to continue to produce a performance that you know you can choose to have your schtick or your set or your stage patter and do it every night. But low and and I got into the habit of not preparing anything with regard to that. We would see how the room felt and we would put it out there. I mean, I worked from a set list the other night at the living room. I also veered off the set list about eight songs in and changed it up because I felt the room. That’s the part of this that is to me, so inspiring that makes it worth continuing to do 30 years in, y’know, a million miles probably. And more highways than I can count. This trip right now. It’s looking like I’m going to finish up in about 575 miles. In August I did 1300 miles and five days on the ground. I fly to a hub city and drive around this process is is in you know, yeah, it’s grueling. It’s hard and I know a lot of people absolutely hate it. I’m not one of them. I thrive on this. I hope I never have to retire. I hope that you know, either I dropped dead on the road, or that I’m at a point where I go, you know, I’ve had enough I’m ahead of the game. I still have my health because the conventional wisdom is and it’s not going to go away until I’m infirm and can’t do it anymore.

Hal InPhilly  33:49

Everything about opening up your own little place like Laura did. Little little cafe of some kind at some point?

Dan Navarro  33:55

Well. yes and no, I have a performance concept, that I do at music conferences where I’ll stage a showcase room and present other artists called Cantina Navarro. I staged it at McCabe’s guitar shop at the end of October, three young artists I open with one song, and then then in the encore, we do one or two songs together, and then I leave. But otherwise I’m presenting other artists and I emcee. So yeah, the idea of running an actual location is on the tough side but, I’m not ruling it out. Especially once if it does get to the point where traveling is tough. Then I’ll do it since like when Rodney Dangerfield it. He did that early so that he would have a hedge against the road. Something that would produce some income in case you couldn’t go on the road. And it became very successful.

Hal InPhilly  34:45

Dangerfield? Yep,

Dan Navarro  34:47

yep, Dangerfield’s in New York City.

Dan Navarro  34:50

Now, I mean, you know, some of my favorite road stories are pretty weird.

Dan Navarro  34:55

And there are a few that have involved. You know,

Dan Navarro  34:58

let’s just say brand new instant personal friends on the road

Dan Navarro  35:04

you know there’s one time where

Dan Navarro  35:07

Two women decided to invite the bass player and myself over to their house for Remy Martin and weed. And when we got there and we found out that they

Dan Navarro  35:18

Oh, did I just miss my ramp?, I think I just missed my ramp. Hahaha, there’s a road story!

Hal InPhilly  35:26

“I was doing this podcast and, heh, hehheh…  passed my ramp…!”

Dan Navarro  35:29

No, it’s really true …aannnd… It’s only a one mile backtrack and it’s actually it’s only one one mile down track. No big deal.

Dan Navarro  35:40

Anyway, all this is to say that what they did for a living were balloon arrangements and tie dyed sarongs. So they really wanted us to put our time on put on their timelines and wrongs. So of course, we had to remove our pants to do it. And the bass player had a prosthetic leg. He had lost his leg when he was nine years old. No way was below the knee. He could do anything. No one really knew that this is what his situation was. So he warns the one of the woman, I need to warn you, I’ve got a fake leg. She put her hand on his arm and said, It’s okay. I’m a healer. And my first thought is, I don’t think you’re gonna be we looked at each other, right, pulled our pants back up and got the heck out of there. Because we go you’re not going to be healing this dear

Hal InPhilly  36:34


Dan Navarro  36:36

Then they’re turned into a situation for a number of years where I had a fan in Annapolis, Maryland, who started buying me Irish Car Bombs to drink you know, an Irish car bomb is that was essentially for 20 That’s right. Of course you were a bartender. Exactly right. I mean for the general public: It’s a Guinness it’s a Guinness boilermaker with Bailey’s and Jamison Baileys an Irish whiskey. Well, it’s also intended to be guzzled. And the audience would basically sit there watch me do this and I’d have three or four of them in the course of the night. Not the wisest of moves on stage. I mean I quit drinking two years ago and I should mention quit drinking five years ago and got completely sober two years ago. So those are long I think in the past but I remember toward the end of some of the longer sets they’re kind of were tuning was relative and timing. The results

Hal InPhilly  37:29

were staggering.

Dan Navarro  37:31

Literally! Exactly! But it was amusing I was always gain for whatever the audience had in mind, the way that guy started with us by the way, the guy was buying me the hours car bombs was he was heckling us and he wouldn’t stop. He was funny, but he was heckling us. And so Eric finally went “Oh for God’s sake, get up here! You’re going to do this come on up stage!” So he walked on stage and he did seven prepared minutes. He was a standup. And he was wonderful. He was so funny, we laughed and part of the thing that I loved about the road was rather than sitting there going, I can’t believe this asshole did this. We were going, “What’s in there? Let’s make something of this. Let’s give the audience something to play with. Let’s…” You know, and we made lemonade. The guy is to this day a dear friend, I literally just sang at his wedding three months ago. And he built me a guitar as a gift. He’s a dear friend. I’m going to see him tonight at the house concert I’m doing and this is out of a guy who erupted by heckling us at a 350 seats sell out. That could have easily been us going, “Uh, security! Get this guy out of here”. We didn’t do that.

Hal InPhilly  38:43

No. You, you

Dan Navarro  38:45

We went with it.

Hal InPhilly  38:46

You boosted his career.

Dan Navarro  38:48

Well, we boosted his career, but we also boosted the audience was coming undone, they were laughing so hard. His name is Brett Bean, he’s a great guy. I gotta tell you, man, it was one of the best And the road stories. The road stories are about looking at whatever it is that’s happening and finding the good fortune in it, rather than the dark side the hard part. You know, there’s something good in every weird situation that happens on the road. You just got to be open to it and willing to see it. I’ve laughed my butt off at more oh good god, I broken strings I broken, Eric’s broken headstocks off guitars. I had a cable on the wrong fret for half of a song once and realized halfway through it. Oh, wait a minute. I forgot the words. The I forgot the opening lyric to a song and we vamped until I was ready. Three and a half minutes before I went, it’s not coming and we stopped and change songs. And laughed our heads off.

Hal InPhilly  39:51

I know that feeling. Now, but what’s up and coming in the Dan Navaro Universe?

Dan Navarro  39:57

You know, I’m booked steady through the The end of April and right now the summer is wide open, but I’m already booking September, October, November. Not sure why September why the summer is not happening, but I’m doing four shows around the DC area in early January. I have a songwriting workshop I do in Washington DC that’s happening January 5. It’s called songwriting and the creative muse. After that, I’m doing the 30A Festival in the South Walton Beach, Florida on the panhandle. It’s a wonderful festival. I did the Folk Alliance Conference that weekend that is January like 16th, Sep January 17 to 20th. And it’s a really cool fun festival. 200 songwriters, 25 venues, and it’s a little bit like a South by Southwest except it’s spread out over a over 25 mile stretch and some beautiful, beautiful part of Florida on the panhandle with the you know, the south facing Gulf Coast.

Hal InPhilly  40:54

It sounds wonderful. That’s big deal.

Dan Navarro  40:56

Oh, it’s really really cool. All of my friends do it. So it’s a you know, I play every day. And they put us up and they feed us and we play you know, we embed two person rounds and three person rounds and solo shows and day and night. It’s it’s in its 11th year and it’s a really cool festival. early February I’m doing a series of deadhead shows, from the standpoint that I’m going to play in Newton, Kansas in a house concert, my first show in Kansas ever followed the next day by a show in St. Joseph, Minnesota, where I’ve also never played, I can’t drive and it’s a 12 hour drive, so I’m gonna fly it. Then I got three days off, and I’ve got two shows in Minnesota than a show in Chicago than one in Port Clinton, Ohio. I go home for two days and go back out again. So I’m out for three weeks in January, three weeks in February. I do the upper Midwest every winter. Toward the end of March. I’m doing Phoenix. In April. I’m doing the North Playing in Cambridge, New York, probably Cambridge, Massachusetts, Cambridge, Massachusetts as well. Again with the I’m doing, I think New York. And you know, I do New England usually every April. Also do it. I just did it. I just did New York couple of days ago. You know, it’s moving around a lot everything’s on their website at the end of our calm and on my Facebook page and I have two Facebook pages. I have a personal one that I’ve talked more but there’s the one that’s where I have all my music information DanNavarroMusic and all the events are there and one of the one of my years

Hal InPhilly  42:38

Oh, God, you recently did a project with James Lee Stanley, the All Wood and Led”

Dan Navarro  42:46

All Wood And Led. James Lee is known for his “All Wood And…” series he did two records with John Batdorf to have called “All Wood and Stones”, which are acoustic reworkings of Stones tunes, and it was really good. He did “All Wood and Doors” with Cliff Everhart, and I went to him a couple years ago and said, “Dude, I want to do this with you… ‘All Wood and Led'”

Dan Navarro  43:06

We have reinvented the songs. They’re not strictly acoustic, but they’re complete reinventions. And I have to tell you it’s it’s a wonderful record. And the chances are very good we are going to get skewered. Because, to a lot of people, Led Zeppelin a sacrosanct. But, you know, we just decided to do them our way. We’re right now we only have one tour date booked in November of next year but I want to try to get us out earlier you know, the main thing is that I’m, you know, we’re both pretty busy solo guys and I’m and I’m booked but we’re going to try to fit it in. It is my goal to basically leave Los Angeles on January 3 and not go home till Christmas. That would be success in my life.  Y’know?

Hal InPhilly  43:49

Ho ho ho.

Dan Navarro  43:51

Ho ho ho. The road. The road is a teacher The road is a mistress The road is a is a dear friend. It’s a Bugaboo. It’s It’s crazy. Making, it’s possibly inspiring. Because it is real, it’s abs, I have learned this country on the ground. And from that standpoint, it is it is just nothing but wonderful. I enjoy the process. And I hope to, I hope that I’m done with it by the time that I stop. And

Hal InPhilly  44:22

Well I hope I get to see you again before you’re done with it! I know you’ll be back in Philly, in April, back at the Living Room.

Dan Navarro  44:28

Yeah, I am counting on a minimum of three more years… Till I’m 70. I don’t really want to stop. I honestly believe that I can do this till I’m 75 without much issue. I’m not afraid to say because it’s out there on Google. I’m 67 years old. I’ve been you know, I’ve been touring for 30 years and didn’t really start to me till I was 37 and the whole thing to me is about: H ow long can I keep this doing because I’m not doing this by accident. I’m not doing it by default, and I’m not doing it because I need the money. Even though the money is, you know, it’s not riches man, it’s not even close. It’s working man’s income. But I really love doing it. I love the process. And so my attitude is: Bring. It. On.  And I get to see people wouldn’t you know, we have a background that overlaps, but it wouldn’t know you if it wasn’t for the road.

Hal InPhilly  45:25

So that precisely, and I think you’re going to hit 70 easily. I always talk about Les Paul, who played every Friday night in a little club in upstate New York till he was 94. He just up until the day he died. He had a steady gig and I’m like, I want that to be me.

Dan Navarro  45:41

That’s my hero, man. Those are my heroes. And these are the people my true hero right now is a guy that I’m friends with. Who is David Amram. He was a classical composer, a jazz French horn player of film score. A writer. He hung with jack Kerouac. He hung with Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger. He’s done everything. He just turned 89 years old and I just sat in with him. Yeah, exactly. I sat in with him in Los Angeles doing a gig. He’s doing Folk Alliance. He comes to all the festivals. He comes to the most of the music conferences. Plays pennywhistle on everybody stuff. He is just one of those figures. He’s the real thing, and has lived an entire life of music and art. I’m blessed that he considers me a friend. And he calls me “Pops. And it’s I’m just sitting there like, I’m hanging around with – He hung out with Dizzy Gillesp ie man!!  And I’m sittin’ up going,”He he calls me pops”! and so I’m just going, “This is what it’s all about.” He’s my hero. If I can go till I’m 89 I’m going to be the happiest man in the world.

Hal InPhilly  46:47

Well, here’s to your happiness Dan. Good. Great talks on YouTube. I

Dan Navarro  46:52

look forward to next time I get to hang with you.

Hal InPhilly  46:54

It’s gonna happen. I’ll be

Dan Navarro  46:57

got it. Well, I’m at my gig. So I’m gonna go inside. setup and

Hal InPhilly  47:01

throwing up set it up again. Now I know like actors always say Break a leg when we say break a string that

Dan Navarro  47:08

string people say but I like Break a leg. You know my favorite is is don’t fuck up which is a good one. I’ll as I said, I will say busta gam or snap a pin or something that’s, you know, a little Jazzbo way of saying “break a leg”. But,  there are two schools of thought thought about Break a leg one of them is is the opposite of what you really want. Because to say good luck in the theater is like saying Macbeth in the theater. It’s a ticket to bad luck, right? Someone else told me a story that that in in the Royal Court when a woman curtsied she bent a knee and that and when men would bow they would also bend a knee like a curtsy, not just a straight bow with stiff legs. So the whole idea was be lucky enough to be in the presence of the king of the queen. “Break a leg” “Bend the knee”.

Dan Navarro  48:00

I don’t know if that’s accurate, but I like it

Hal InPhilly  48:02

It works

Dan Navarro  48:04

it works. And it’s all about the whole idea is again, and I’ve said this repeatedly and I continue to, We GET to do this. It’s not a matter of whether we have to, if you have the energy and the stomach, and the bandwidth, and the sense of humor for the road, you’re never gonna want to come off as well. And for me, the tough one was when I was 44. When I was 43, I got married when I was 44. We had a son and leaving them behind. We never did the three month touring that the big guys would do. were usually at the tropics to be able to bring people with you. But we would do is when we first got together we would do six weeks. Once my son was born, we would stop at 25 days and that diminished over time. I will say I got divorced in 2002 and Eric in 2014, contract and Lou Gehrig’s disease from now From 2004 on for 10 solid years, I did nothing but five days every two weeks. Leave on a Wednesday play Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Go home on Monday. Nine days home, five days out, nine days home, five days out, lather, rinse, repeat.

Hal InPhilly  49:17

We’re out of the five days out.

Dan Navarro  49:20

We would go wherever we would fly to Chicago do five shows around the area, go to Minnesota do five shows around the area go to DC to five shows around the area, Denver, Phoenix, upstate New York, New England, Seattle, Texas, but we would go out for five day runs because his stamina couldn’t handle doing more than that. And I also it also meant that I didn’t have to prevail upon my ex wife to do several weeks and jeopardize blowing a stinky into the custody arrangement. I toured on my free time in a 50-50 custody arrangement. So we would trade off weeks and I would do five days on my week. Free, a free so I was a full time half time dad after divorce. My son didn’t have to want for me because he didn’t see me when he was normally not going to see held as your son now. He’s 23 He lives in New York City. He graduated NYU a year ago. I will say my divorce went way better than my marriage. My ex wife and I are really good friends. We raised him well, because we prioritized his needs. And changing touring was prioritizing his needs rather than saying, sorry, I got to be out for three weeks. And she had to have been for three weeks in a row. And then me having him for three weeks in a row would have been tough.

Hal InPhilly  50:38


Dan Navarro  50:39

Plus, and if I wouldn’t do that, it’s like, Okay, you got him three weeks in a row. And now we’re going to trade weeks and suddenly the balance was tipped, and it was important for me to do 50-50

Hal InPhilly  50:47

Any music in your kid?

Dan Navarro  50:51

He’s very musical. He plays guitar and bass. He plays baseball and he plays guitar, but he chose he wants to be a filmmaker so he got his degree in screenwriting from NYU. He’s still plays, but he’s really a writer, and a really good one. He only just started singing a couple of years right before he graduated college last year he took, he took a voice class at NYU with my dear friend, Janice Pendarvis, sang with Sting and Bowie and everybody. And, you know, he was looking for voice lessons. And I went, you know, my friend, Janice teaches at NYU, and you’re going there. So I asked her, she goes, Yeah, I teach classes in NYU. So he took it. So basically, we didn’t pay for it. He took a class for credit.

Hal InPhilly  51:31

Killer. What a deal!

Dan Navarro  51:33

Yeah, he’s a good one. But like I said, you know, these elements of life dictate how we can do this. And so there were compromises that got made but the compromises got made on the amount of free time I had, not in how I dealt with my family. People would say, Well, how do you do this? I don’t sleep much. I sacrifice sleep I sacrificed. for 10 years, I didn’t have any more than four days a month of true free time at home. So I didn’t date for a long time, because it just wasn’t around. I would date somebody and go, yeah, I’ll see you in a month and a half. As it is. I see somebody now who lives in Florida. And we manage to get together about once a month. And that’s what we do is very difficult. But anyway, that’s, you know, so you make the compromises, but the compromise it’s not going to be made is quitting for reasons other than the desire to quit, and I don’t have that desire to quit yet, so I keep doing

Hal InPhilly  52:28

it. No, as a matter of fact, I was impressed by when you played it, the living room. He did the entire thing without a physical intermission.

Dan Navarro  52:36

I played straight through I actually like intermissions really more to you know, sell booze at the clubs or some merchandise.

Dan Navarro  52:44

Laura requested that we go straight through so didn’t go too late which was fine with me. The other thing and this is unusual for guys my age who are doing this is I don’t like sitting when I play.

Hal InPhilly  52:55

I’m the same way I don’t I can’t play so my down.

Dan Navarro  52:57

Yeah, I don’t like sitting when I play It’s kind of important to the energy level to me to stand. I can do it. It’s just not as much fun for me as static. And so that’s what I do. And last night I wound up doing two one hour sets. The guy requested a third he was paying us handsomely. We did a third. That was just covers and then afterwards, I did the unplugged thing for about 40 minutes. So I, I had a long night.

Hal InPhilly  53:22

Yeah, I call that pulling a Springsteen.

Dan Navarro  53:26

Exactly. And I’m not complaining. Anyway, my brother, I’m at the house concert.

Hal InPhilly  53:22

All right, Dan, don’t fuck up.

Dan 53:40

You got it. (Laughs)


Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Posted by Hal, 0 comments

Steve Schalchlin-Part 2

Steve Schalchlin playing acoustic guitarIn Part 1 of my conversation with Steve Schalchlin, we talked about Steve’s Texas roots; growing up gay, as the son of  Baptist, and eventually finding his place as a musician, singer/songwriter and eventually landing the role of West Coast Director of the National Academy of Songwriters in Los Angeles, CA. Later, after being diagnosed with AIDS, he turned his prestigious position over to his protege, Brett Perkins, and pretty much resigns himself to die as a result of being HIV positive in the 80’s with no cure in sight.

In Part Two, Steve Talks about his miraculous recovery. Then, going on to write his internet diary, Living in the Bonus Round – and then, his award winning, long-running Off Broadway play, The Last Session.

Later, he learns how to compose and write a Mass under the tutelage of Mark Janas, talks about playing John Lennon’s “Imagine” piano and then, shares a secret to attaining true success.

This was one of the most (if not THE most) compelling conversations I have ever had the pleasure to have with anyone on Tales of the Road Warriors.

Talking Points (Part 2)

Anson Williams (Potsy Webber from Happy Days)

Arrive Dallas.

2nd time in NYC

Mark Janas

learning to score




Last Session

The Steve Schalchlin survival Site (Living in The Bonus Round)

John Fogerty at the NAS Salute.


Steve Schalchlin 0:00
Couple of years later, after Brett had taken over and then I somehow happened into… I was hosting an open mic at the chimney sweep and then… Jill Holly… I met Jill Holly through that. And Jill was hosting a showcase at Rusty’s Surf Ranch in Santa Monica. And she got a college tour and had to find somebody to take over for so. So she asked me, and that’s how I met why I had already known Matt Kramer, but I sort of like met him again through this whole thing. And

Hal InPhilly 0:35
(Steve) “right”

Hal InPhilly 0:35
So when I was hosting, after I had taken over as host for Rusty’s Surf Ranch Tuesday Night showcase was called acoustic. I was calling mine “Acoustic Soup”. This was “Acoustic Tuesday” or something; I forget what we called it. Then you contacted me about trying out this new show that you had been working on?

Steve Schalchlin 0:55
Yes after… In 1995, after I had been in the hospital, in a horrendous case of pneumonia that took me forever. It wasted all my muscles down to my bones. I look like a concentration camp survivor. And when I got out of the hospital that year, it took me, and that was in ’94 – it took me a year before I could start walking normally again and even sitting up at the piano. And I began writing songs about the experience of living with AIDS. And the writing of the music started to make me stronger. And I’ll never forget, there was a day, the first day that I set up at the piano after this year. I started playing and playing and playing, and I think I played all day long, just big churchy chords and clanging my head against the wood of the piano and just playing. And the next day when I woke up, I felt the measurable difference in my physical strength. rank, like if I had thought to myself that I was like 65%. The next day I was at 90%. And after playing that music, it was a huge leap. And I thought, wow, all of that came from playing music. It’s not a wives tale.

Steve Schalchlin 2:20
Music is great for your body, it really actually has a measurable effect. So that’s when I began writing songs about the experience of living base and Jimmy was giving me ideas for songs and I wrote the whole score in about three months, I think, like from from October to the beginning of December… Two months. And then Jimmy wrote a book around those songs. And that became the last session and so I was playing the songs anywhere I could. I was like an evangelist for music. Yeah. And that was probably about the time that I contacted you or you contacted me about that gig and now I have almost no memory of it.

Hal InPhilly 3:06
The healing power of music. No, you called me! You called me out of the blue., It’s like – Steve Schalchlin’s callin’ me with… I’m like, “Why would I want to talk to me?” And you told me you had written this, this show and, uh, well, what’s the Potsy story? I know you’ve told it a million times, but people who know me out here have no idea what, well,

Steve Schalchlin 3:27
It was the night I went into the hospital with this pneumocystis pneumonia, the terrible pneumonia I was just telling you about. Jim took me into the emergency room. I could barely stand up.

Steve Schalchlin 3:40
And they put me on a gurney and I’m lying there in the emergency room. I can barely breathe. I feel like I’m at death’s door at that moment. And it looked up and through the doorway comes Potsy! Anthony Williams from the TV show Happy Days. And it was such an unreal experience and I looked up at him and he came over and he said (he could tell that I was just miserable). And he came up to the bed and he said, you know, “What’s wrong with you?” Up to that point, I had not said the word AIDS out loud. I’d said you know, “HIV positive…” I used all these simple flippy words. And finally, I looked at him and just went. “I have…”

Steve Schalchlin 4:23
“AAAAAIIIIIDDDDDSSSS!!!!!!!” and I screamed it out loud.

Steve Schalchlin 4:27
Jim tells the story dishes crashed…lol…

Hal InPhilly 4:28
Heh heheh heh, dishes crashed…

Steve Schalchlin 4:32
You know, people fell, things banked, but I just I yelled it out loud. And he took my hand and he said, You know, I have to tell you, I, this is not going to be the end for you. I really believe that…. something, you know… something… you’re going to survive this and you’re going to do some great things in your life. Now I dunno, maybe that’s just something you say to somebody who’s sick, but I took those words in.

Hal InPhilly 5:01
It’s pretty prolific

Steve Schalchlin 5:03
It’s just what I needed to hear. And we make a joke in our show where I say I decided to live that day because I didn’t want the last celebrity I ever saw my life to be Potsy.

Hal InPhilly 5:15
Yeah, I love that story.

Steve Schalchlin 5:17
Well, after last session after we did, you know, I did my little gigs I did Rusty’s Surf Ranch, and I was playing these songs all over Los Angeles. And we did a workshop, and that was the same time this would be 1996, in March, I started an online blog detailing my symptoms because I was starting to fail again. The writing of the songs sort of picked me up and kept me alive for for from 1995. But that could only last so long the virus was starting to take over and I was starting to die, and I knew I was dying. So I started keeping this online diary called . calledLiving In the Bonus Round – Back then it was called the Steve Shalchlin Survival Site. And I was just detailing all of my symptoms. And we got, we managed to get a little workshop together in Los Angeles to do “The Last Session” there on Melrose Avenue. And about a week before we started, the New AIDS drug came in the mail. It was on compassionate use. There were only so many slots available because you had to take it … Because it was so new, they didn’t have enough manufacturing facilities. And they had a nationwide lottery. And my name got picked in the lottery and I started taking the drug. It’s funny, my recollection of it was it was like, you know, the door opens and golden light comes in and the new drug comes in and but I went back and looked at my diary entries back then. And I remember my actual response to it was, Oh, great. Another stupid drug.”

Hal InPhilly 6:58
And this was like, a clinical trial?

Steve Schalchlin 7:01
It was just passed a clinical trial, they had released it, what they called “compassionate use”. They hadn’t finished the trials. But in the second round, the drug was so effective. They thought; and AIDS activists had had a lot to do with this too, is that they just started to release the drug,Say,”Well, look, it’s bringing people back to life. If it’s got side effects, they’ll kill them, you know, either die or have side effects. You know, take your pick.”

Hal InPhilly 7:29

Steve Schalchlin 7:29
So, they were giving the drug out to a select number of people who were at the end stages, who they knew were going to be they were already feeding me through tubes. through my veins, they only expected me to live for just a few weeks longer.

Hal InPhilly 7:44

Steve Schalchlin 7:46
And I started taking the drug and I’m in the effect of it was almost overnight. I started gaining weight within like a week or two. And right then is when we started rehearsals for the “The Last Session”, the workshop and I started my own show. For three weeks. We did that down on Melrose Avenue. And at the end of the run, the little wire or the little tube that was connecting my feeding tube that would go into my bloodstream and feed me at night had crimped and I was starting to actually have my digestive system had started working again. I had had diarrhea for like three years, and the diarrhea stopped. I was taking in food. And at night, when we took our final bows of our final performance, I took the bandage off my arm and I said to the audience, I said it looks like I’m gonna live.

Hal InPhilly 8:43
Wow. That’s amazing.

Steve Schalchlin 8:48
It was an extraordinary night.

Hal InPhilly 8:50
And what year was this?

Steve Schalchlin 8:53
This would be 1996 in July. It’s all documented of my online diary. So then came the next big event which was,”OK, now I’m going to live what do I do next? You know, writing the diary… writing the musical was like my last big blow out look I’ve done I’ve done my life’s work I’ve written a musical it’s, the songs are really fantastic – and they were! The songs are great!. And I thought I have reached the pinnacle. And I’m going to go out like a, you know, like a fireworks in the sky. Except that I didn’t die and it was like waking up and going, “Okay, now what do I DOOO?”

Hal InPhilly 9:36
Anti-climax? Let’s go find Potsy and tell them you made it!

Steve Schalchlin 9:39
Hahaha… Exactly. And it is a year later we were in New York and “The Last Session” was off Broadway and we ran for nine months. And that turned into me taking the songs out of the context of the show and I got an agent that and I started tour colleges and universities and high schools doing AIDS education concerts. So I became a performing artist.

Hal InPhilly 10:07
Which you are still today, no?

Steve Schalchlin 10:10
Which I still am today. I don’t Yeah, I guess I sort of am. I fell a couple years ago and I broke my arm and I’m still in the middle of trying to get my arm back. ‘Cause I had a shoulder replacement and it didn’t work and they had to do it all over again. So I’m a little bit

Steve Schalchlin 10:29
what did you have bread say that I’m accident prone?

Steve Schalchlin 10:32
I’ve been a piano player all my life. Yeah.

Hal InPhilly 10:32
Accident prone! Yeah! And this because this all happened shortly after you started playing the guitar. You were uh, keyboards all your life and then you decided…

Hal InPhilly 10:41
And then you decide “I’m gonna play guitar” and as soon as you start playing guitar, there goes the shoulder… You still play play.

Steve Schalchlin 10:52
What’s that?

Hal InPhilly 10:53
Have you been playing guitar lately?

Steve Schalchlin 10:55
I have. I have for the past year now for the past six months or so. I’ve gotten I started playing again. Still a piano player who plays guitar. I’m not great at it.

Steve Schalchlin 11:05
Have you written any songs on the guitar? Like,

Unknown Speaker 11:07
I’ve written a number of songs on guitar, I love writing songs. It’s completely different experience. When I write on the piano, I usually write lyrics. And then I fit music to write to the lyrics. What I’m playing guitar, I’ve come up with a rhythm and I start singing along and the song comes out of the rhythm.

Hal InPhilly 11:26
So now you know we did.

Steve Schalchlin 11:28
And now I know and it’s a lot more fun. It’s a lot more fun. I’ve always been jealous. Jealous of guitar players.

Hal InPhilly 11:36
Now, I don’t have to be you

Steve Schalchlin 11:38
I didn’t realize how easy it was.

Hal InPhilly 11:43
Looking over my notes, I was wondering if I skipped anything. I see “Janus.” So that was way back in New York.

Steve Schalchlin 11:51
We were living in Los Angeles after after “Last Session”. I mean, the New York production played out here and we were still Living in LA. And I was going around and doing all those concerts. And then Jimmy (Brochu) wrote another play for himself where he played the character of Zero Mostel and we took it to New York. And it was such a hit out here that we decided to move. Now I came into the exact same place I was when I first hit LA. I came to New York and I didn’t know anybody. And I thought now, where do I start? Because it’s like starting over, right? And I thought, well, I’d love to learn, since I’ve started this career in theater… I wasn’t a theater major in – I didn’t go to Conservatory, most of my music education for some two years of Baptist college and just being on the road. I could read music. I couldn’t write it down very well. And I wanted to…

Hal InPhilly 12:49
when you move back to New York, was it easier for you to get kind of get back into then it was initially when you went to LA I would think New York be would be easier to Get back into your groove then it was

Steve Schalchlin 13:02
Well, what I did was I decided to, to follow my own advice. The same thing that I did in LA is, we… Here in New York, there was a fella named Mark Janus, who Jimmy had worked with on a musical. So he was my friend. And he teaches at Manhattan School of Music; he conducted for Leonard Bernstein. He’s a great arranger and musician, like a monster monster musician, the type that I’m not. And so I called him up in the first week, we’re here and I said, Mark, I would love to learn choral arranging, and more advanced forms of composition. How about if I come over and clean your toilets and sweep your floor. If I if I can be of use to you, and then I can just watch you work? So I can just learn from you.” He’s a really great guy and he said, “No, no, no, no”, he said, “My to place is too small. That’s dumb. I don’t want you cleaning my toilet.” He said, “But look, I have a church choir. And it’s in Brooklyn. And the church choir consists of a lot of my vocal students from Manhattan School of Music, which are opera singers, musical theatre singers, all legit legit, advanced musicians, songwriters, who can read music like crazy and not songwriters, but singers.” And he said, “If you want to, I can always use another voice in the in the choir.”

Steve Schalchlin 14:29
So I showed up the following Sunday. And I said, “Just put me in the back row in the tenor and I’ll be happy to just sing along and learn.” And he said, “No,” he said, “I can’t have you just doing that. You’re a songwriter of note. You’ve had two hit musicals in New York. Why don’t you sing a solo and teach the choir the song, and I’ll feature you in the service.”

Steve Schalchlin 14:56
And this is an Episcopal Church. So it’s not like the Baptist Church. It’s a much different layout. So I sang a song, I got the choir sing along with me. And I showed up the next Sunday. And he he made me do it again. So I did another song. And the next thing you know, I’m choral arranging for the choir and I’m writing. And eventually, I became I gave myself a title of “Composer in Residence.”

Hal InPhilly 14:56

Hal InPhilly 15:23
I like that.

Steve Schalchlin 15:25
Because I thought I’m volunteering titles are great. And the church to lead along with it. So I became “Composer in Residence”. And I thought, well, I know how to teach myself how to compose; I’m going to, I’m going to write out a mass to compose a mass. Now, I didn’t actually know what was in a mass, so I had to look it up on Google.

Hal InPhilly 15:50
Search to mass

Steve Schalchlin 15:52
And I find that there’s five, there’s five movements to a mess and they all have the same words have been each move. It has has a set of lyrics. So it’s a exercise in music composition. And I had written a bunch of single songs for the service that were more like gospel songs, that we’ve been using over the past couple of years. So I merge the two I wrote these very heavy choral arrangements to go for the mass and I intersperse the songs that I’ve been writing over the last several years and compose the full Mass and we performed it and recorded it.

Steve Schalchlin 16:29
When was this?

Steve Schalchlin 16:31
This was just a few years ago.

Steve Schalchlin 16:33
That’s what I thought… It was recent.

Hal InPhilly 16:35
Yes. So… I guess I should bring this up to date and bring this up to date. So what’s going on with you? I know you just came back from a cruise with Jim.

Steve Schalchlin 16:45
Yeah. Jim works on cruise ships and I get to tag along. What I’m doing now is there’s a software group out here called the Jack Hardy Songwriter Group. They’ve been around forever since Jack Hardy. He was a folk singer. He passed away, but he was a really great songwriter. And every week, he had a group of songwriters and everybody has to bring a brand new song every week. And you play it for the group.

Hal InPhilly 17:14
And you bring the lyric sheets in?

Steve Schalchlin 17:17
You write the lyrics and the music, you sing it and then that you get a critique from the group, right?

Hal InPhilly 17:21
I love those. I just us went to one recently with NSAI out here in Philly.

Steve Schalchlin 17:27
Oh, sure. But Suzanne Vega has been through here Michelle Shocked is in the group.

Hal InPhilly 17:33

Steve Schalchlin 17:33
There’s some really songwriters of great note, who are who drift in and out of the group. That has been my focus ever since for the past two years now because of my arm. And and, but also for the for the past 10 years that we’ve been here I’ve been going faithfully.

Hal InPhilly 17:52
So you’ve been writing bringing a new song and every week to the…?

Steve Schalchlin 17:57
Yep, new song in every week. And it makes you. It makes you really ripe. You know, and a lot of them really suck and that’s okay because it means you can get the bad ones out along with the good ones.

Hal InPhilly 18:09

Steve Schalchlin 18:10
And then I make demos and I set up a little home recording studio here in the house. Also since since “The Last Session”, I wrote a song cycle along with my mass. I also wrote a song cycle called “New World Waking” . And this brings the John Lennon story around full circle. A friend of mine named Gabby, who lives out in Olympia, Washington… Her son, a bisexual teenager had committed suicide after gay bashing.

Hal InPhilly 18:39
Oh no….

Steve Schalchlin 18:40
And she wrote about it and I put it on my blog and I helped her write up this story is a is an amazing story about her survival as a mother and taking that story and into schools. Well, George Michael, the pop star, had bought John Lennon’s “Imagine” piano as a rock memorabilia. The blonde Steinway upright that he wrote…

Hal InPhilly 19:06

Steve Schalchlin 19:08
“Imagine” on and he was touring around the United States to places with a camera crew – to places where acts of violence that occurred so he took it to Ford’s Theatre. They took it to Memphis, where Dr.. right in front of the hotel where Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. And to Columbine, and George Michaels husband, his name is Kenny, he had an art gallery in Dallas. And he read the story about Gabby son. Now, I was in Houston, and I get a phone call from my friend Gabby, and she says… Now, imagine getting this phone call. “Hello. Hi, Steve. George Michael wants to know if you’ll fly it to Olympia Washington and play John Lennon’s “Imagine” piano

Hal InPhilly 19:57

Steve Schalchlin 19:57
…and I said, “WHAT???…” Because I didn’t know any of this that was going on. “George Michael wants you to fly to Olympia Washington and play John Lennon’s “Imagine” piano. I said, “Who? This is somebody pranking you because she got pranked a lot from from homophobes and bigots. I said, “This can’t be true That’s, th-it’s-th this is no way this is true.” And she said, “Well, I got the phone call. And I said, I’ll tell you what, “I’ll believe it…” What happened is they called her. They wanted to bring it. And she told them, “No, only if Steve Schalchlin – if you’ll fly Steve Shalchlin up to play it.” Because I helped her write her story out. And telling telling them no only is my friend from you know, if you’ll fly my friend who they don’t have any idea who he is across country to play the piano. So anyway, they said yes, and I said, “I’ll tell you what. I’ll believe it when the plane ticket comes in. Oh. The plane tickets arrived. I flew up there. And I’ll tell you I had a transcendent moment. They pulled up the big truck, they hauled out the piano, they put it in the front yard underneath the tree. And I sit down at that piano. And over on the right hand side, just on the side of the keyboard where the wood is. There was a cigarette burn. Like a groove.

Steve Schalchlin 21:31
That’s John Lennon’s cigarette groove.

Hal InPhilly 21:36
John Lennon’s cigarette groove! Heh heh… Wow!

Steve Schalchlin 21:39
John Lennon’s cigarette groove. Right there. So, I’ve always, whenever I write a song on a piano, the sound of that particular instrument that I’m playing at that moment, always influences the notes that I play to write that song because I always look for the sweetest part of that pen when that’s where the song gets written. So I thought, I wonder what Imagine is going to sound like on the actual piano where he wrote it on because you know, he found the best place in the piano to write that song. Because it sounds probably inspired it.

Hal InPhilly 22:20

Steve Schalchlin 22:20
Well, the moment I started playing that little figure dunn dah dah, dunn….

Steve Schalchlin 22:31
… as I started playing that piano, I felt it. It was, it was perfect. Perfect. sonarity unbelievable.

Steve Schalchlin 22:42
I had to give you chills like the hairs with your arms like this while you’re playing and standing up. Like static.

Steve Schalchlin 22:47
It did that. It did that and even more. I looked around because Gabby had invited all of Bills, )her son’s) friends and family members and there were about 20 of us. They were in a circle around The piano, the camera crew was there. And I had been playing a few other songs because I’d written a song about Gabby and about her son and I played that. I played a few other songs. The minute I started to play, “Imagine”, I looked up and I could see everyone’s shoulders, relax. Everyone just kind of went into this Zen place. And as a songwriter, I thought, what would it feel like to write a song of perfect peace? What would it feel like to write a song that has an immediate effect on everyone from the first notes to just make everyone go… (Inhale…DEEP EXHALE)

Steve Schalchlin 22:49
That’s what “Imagine” does.

Steve Schalchlin 23:50
And that’s what gave me the spark to write a song cycle called “New World Waking”, which is a song cycle, about a search for a song of perfect peace. And we did it several years later, with a full orchestra and 200 voice choir in San Francisco for the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus and Community Orchestra. And then I took that, and I pared it down so that I could do it with a cast of 13 as a musical theater piece. And we did it in New York. And that’s all up on YouTube. It’s called New World Waking. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HO-rjuyS6RA

Steve Schalchlin 24:27
I think I want to just say one last thing. And this is to aspiring songwriters, aspiring composers, aspiring singers. Everything I’ve gotten in my life, from learning about the business, from learning about choral arranging; from writing – has been because I put myself out there in service to somebody else. I found out where I wanted to go, and I volunteered my time. And every time I did that, placing myself in the place where I wanted to be That’s how I learned everything. And that’s where all my success came from. It doesn’t come from sitting at home. It comes from putting yourself out there. And I love saying, “To be of service to someone”, just like I volunteered to, you know, clean Mark Janus’s toilets. I didn’t do that. But I did help him in his choir. And NAS, when I got there, I didn’t know anything about the business, but I volunteered at the front desk.

Hal InPhilly 25:26
That’s a remarkable advice. You know, one of the best song leaders that ever lived vote, “You Gotta Serve Somebody”, and so that brings new meaning to that or it. It highlights the meaning of that.

Steve Schalchlin 25:40
And it works. When you give. It comes back to you, because you can’t help but learn and you put yourself at service to somebody else who you want to learn from. You will learn and it will put you in the place that you need to be. So now I have two Off Broadway musicals that have gotten rave reviews. – and I’ve got awards up the Ying Yang. And but I didn’t go to I didn’t go to musical theater school. I didn’t, I wasn’t a music major in that sense. But I’ve achieved all of these things through sheer effort, volunteering and learning. And I just really believe that anyone can do it if they really just get out of their bedrooms and go out and find and look and search and put yourself in service.

Hal InPhilly 26:30
Well, you’ve inspired me,

Steve Schalchlin 26:31

Hal InPhilly 26:32
So hopefully, you’ve just inspired as many people as I can possibly reach with this podcast.

Steve Schalchlin 26:39
I am very happy to have been invited even though Brett Perkins was on there, but I guess

Steve Schalchlin 26:47
I guess something.

Hal InPhilly 26:49
I’m glad I got a chance to talk to you both because I think the two of you are… have both made some great contributions to the world of songwriting and then, to the world at large.

Steve Schalchlin 27:02
I’m very proud of Brett. You know, he’s he’s made a great career for himself in Europe. And he leads songwriters and he helps develop new songwriters and he gives them chances of workshops all over the world. It’s really a remarkable career that he’s carved out for himself and so I really – I joke about him because I love him so much and and I can do that but you know, God bless him. And God bless Bob Malone! When Bob Malone came into National Academy of Songwriters he came in on the first day and he played music for me and I thought, what he’s pretty good. And but the first thing I said to him was, “Hey, stop wearing mall clothes.” (laughter)

Steve Schalchlin 27:41
I said, “Get a costume! Get some, get some clothes on your back and go out there and be an artist”. And we’ve laughed about that ever since. And now he’s touring with with John Fogarty, who is my songwriting hero of all time and I got to meet him at the National Academy of Songwriters event after I was sick. And I came back after I wrote “The Last Session”, I got to shake his hand. I was in the audience and I got to shake his hand and just tell him how much he meant to me. And what an inspiration he was to me when I was sick. So I you know, it’s a remarkable life I feel like that I’ve been living and I’m still living some schools.

Hal InPhilly 28:18
And you’re Yeah, you’re still doing it. That’s the story is not over yet. And we’re just gonna keep looking for new great things from you.

Steve Schalchlin 28:29
I got it comin’, babe.

Hal InPhilly 28:32
All right, keep on keepin on. Thank you so much for talking to me, Steve. This was this was like a hoot. I’m ecstatic.

Steve Schalchlin 28:41
Thank you, Hal. I appreciate it very much.

Steve Schalchlin 28:43
Keep it going.

Hal InPhilly 28:44
I’m gonna.

Steve Schalchlin 28:45
Okay, bye bye.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Posted by Hal in aids, entertainers, john lennon piano, lgbtq, off broadway, singer songwriter, theater, 0 comments

Steve Schalchlin Part 1

Steve Schalchlin Part 1 Show Notes

Steve Schalchlin is a singer/songwriter, a playwright, composer, a survivor of one of the worst epidemics to hit mankind since the plague… I’m talking about AIDS.

Steve went on to write the music and lyrics to the multi-award winning musical The Last Session  with his lifetime partner and husband, Jim Brochu  additional lyrics by John Bettis and Marie Cain. The musical is about a singer/songwriter who has decided to commit suicide to end his battle with AIDS, but only after one last recording session in the studio. It first debuted Off-Broadway in 1997.

He’s also the author of  possibly the longest running or one of the long running blogs on the internet, Living in the Bonus Round. In fact, back then, he called an online diary, because the word “blog” hadn’t been invented yet. When he began , he didn’t know if it would be 1 page or ten pages, because he didn’t know how much time he had left. As it turns out, he is still writing that story to this day and you can find it here. For context, I will link to Day One in March of 1996. There are very few stories like this anywhere else on the internet.

I hate spoilers, so I won’t say much more about. We do talk about a guy named Brett Perkins, so FYI… after finding out he had AIDS, Steve trained Brett to take his place as the West Coast director of NAS (the National Academy of Songwriters). I don’t think you need any further introduction. As they say in the biz, “Let the Show begin!”

Talking Points (Part 1)

Arrive Dallas.

Waiting at IHOP

Audition Gran’ Crystal Palace,

Nancy Boys

Loren & Chris

Baptist rock band

Show band

1st time n NYC

Diane’s couch

Waiting Piano bar


cruise ship offer




Volunteer NAS, AIDS

The Last Session

Hal at the Beach Club.

Brett Perkins

Pawn Shop Preachers

Steve Schalchlin Links and Resources

Living In the Bonus Round Home Page

Living In the Bonus Round Archive (The Begining)

Brett Perkins –  The episode where Brett and I talk about Steve Schalchlin

Tales of the Road Warriors Coffee Mug

Tales of the Road Warriors Coffee Mug

Full Transcript

Hal In Philly 0:00
Hello Steve Shakhlin.

Unknown Speaker 0:02
Well here I am talking. Here I am speaking! Here I am telling my story, my amazing, dramatic heart stopping

Hal In Philly 0:12
I have a feeling you have more than one story

Unknown Speaker 0:15
One or two.

Hal In Philly 0:18
Why all the L’s in your name?

Unknown Speaker 0:21
It’s, I think I was born in the doctor’s office and you have to cover one hand with one eye in order to read my last name.

Hal In Philly0:29
It’s funny, the L’s are silent.

Unknown Speaker 0:32
The first L is silent.

Hal In Philly 0:34
Right? Oh, that’s right. The first because otherwise I’d be Schachin

Unknown Speaker 0:40
I think probably in Europe is is like Schchhhhlinn… It’s Swiss Germanic, so by the time my family made it to Arkansas turned into “Schalchlin”

Hal In Philly 0:51
Gotcha. So you sent me some notes, some show notes t – with talking points.

Unknown Speaker 0:57
Yes, a few little talking points.

Hal In Philly 0:59
So, I guess I should just start there. The first one says, “Arrive Dallas”.

Unknown Speaker 1:08
Well, I came out of Southeast Texas and I was, I am the son of a Baptist minister. And basically, all I knew was church music. And when I was in high school, I was listening to pop music junior high and high schools listen to AM radio. So my favorite groups were the Beatles and Creedence Clearwater, and Neil Young, especially… he was my favorite, but I never got to be in a band. Because my father, drinking and dancing, I wasn’t allowed to be around drinking and dancing. So I didn’t really get to be in a band. Right. And when I didn’t, I went to a Baptist College in East Texas and was in a Baptist__ I was in a band but it was a Baptist rock and roll band.

Hal In Philly 1:58
Just out of curiosity, Did you have a little red AM radio? Did you did you have a transisitor radio?

Unknown Speaker 2:07
Probably did. I probably did. I think I remember in junior high having a little transistor radio and the song that year was For What It’s Worth… Crosby, stills and Nash

Hal In Philly 2:21
…Because my first radio was this little red transistor. I think it was AM only if I’m not mistaken, though. Yeah. And I was listening to, like, the Chipmunks doing “…me I want a hula hoop…”

Unknown Speaker 2:36
Oh, you were advanced, there werentcha?.

Hal In Philly 2:38
Oh, yeah, that song was my earworm!

Unknown Speaker 2:41
I think I was already in junior high before I really started listening to pop music. My mother was in a gospel quartet. And so we would, you know, so it was all really Southern Southern church music.

Hal In Philly 2:58
Yeah. What part of Texas are we talking

Unknown Speaker 3:00
A little town called Buna, which is in the Southeast corner in the golden triangle area where Janis Joplin and Johnny and Edgar Winter came from. And I went to high school there, but my family had moved around a lot because, being a preacher’s kid, you move around a lot, right? And so I was born in Arkansas, then we moved out to Southern California. Then we moved back to Louisiana and then we moved to Texas. And Texas is where I went to high school and college.

Hal In Philly 3:31
And you waited at IHOP during high school or that was after?

Unknown Speaker 3:35
Well, what happened is, I was in my little Jesus rock band. And finally one day, I was doing two things were happening to me at once. One was that I was coming out of the closet to myself, and this being the spit in the mid 70s. And being in that cultural bubble. As a gay man, I had no references on how to come out or whether I could come out. I just knew that that I was going to burn in hell forever.

Hal In Philly 4:02
Well being the son of a preacher had some major impact on you…

Unknown Speaker 4:07
Yeah, my parents were not really hard, hard, tough people in that sense. But the people I was around after moving out of the house were much more fundamentalist-style evangelist that I would run into. And there was this one guy who said, “Well, you know, according to the Bible…” As soon as someone says, “according to the Bible”, turn and run, ’cause y’know it’s not going to be good. He was what they call a Calvinist. And Calvinists believe that if I was gay, admit that Jesus, or God didn’t choose me from before time. And so there was no way that I was ever going to achieve salvation. And it was proof that I would never be saved. What it led to was – I felt was I’m never going to be saved anyway. I might as well just get the hell out of town. Gonna go live a life. You know, it was one of those moments, what I did was I packed up my car from East Texas and I drove to Dallas. And when I got to Dallas, I got a job waiting tables that IHOP. And I started going down into a place called Denton, Texas. And I was living with some Iranian foreign exchange students before the revolution. And I would drive down to Dallas and find the nearest nearest gay bar and hang out and then come back up and then go back down. Somewhere in there, someone suggested to me they found out that I was a musician. And I said, hey, there’s this theater, a dinner theater in Dallas called the Gran’ Crystal Palace, and they’re looking for a singer. And I said, “Well, like I sing”. So I showed up to do this audition. Now, understanding I’d never seen any theater before. I didn’t know any musical theater. I didn’t know any jazz songs. I didn’t know that. I didn’t know like Frank Sinatra, I didn’t know anything except gospel and pop. So I stood in the corner of this piano, and I sang a Stevie Wonder song with my eyes nailed down straight to my feet. It was the worst audition a person could ever do for musical theater because I knew nothing. But halfway through the song, there was this really high note and I sang this really high note. And the old guy sitting out who was judging us said, Yeah, he can do it. And that’s how I got my job in theater. And thanks to IHOP, I knew how to wait tables.

Unknown Speaker 6:38
My first job waiting tables was as soon as I landed in Los Angeles, I specifically drove out there just to get a job as a singing waiter. So that’s where I probably met a lot of people you and I know in common.

Unknown Speaker 6:53
Yeah, so as I… First of all, I couldn’t dance at all I had Baptist – see I hadn’t ever been into a dance because I wasn’t allowed to much less dance theatrically. So they just kind of kept me in the back row. And what I what I found out later was the tenor who was kind of the star of the company – he was going on vacation, whether they hired somebody or not he ’cause he doesn’t like the way the place was run. So they hired me simply because the other guy was gonna leave and they needed that voice. And that was my entree into theater in Dallas, and I made good money, because it was a really high class restaurant. And I started writing songs for the little musical reviews. Yeah, the grand Crystal Palace. They had one in Aspen, Colorado also.

Hal In Philly 7:41
And in my notes, you mentioned Nancy boys, Lauren and Chris. Show Ben and side pop band.

Unknown Speaker 7:51
Some of that’s in LA, but in Dallas, there was a show band. The place is coming apart. It was falling apart. I got a job as a musical director in a like Vegas style show band. And as we traveled around doing mostly we did hotels, like roadway ins and bars and stuff like that. One of my favorite really horrendous road stories, or sad road stories is that we were at the roadway in in Columbus, Ohio on the night John Lennon was assassinated. And we were doing a set in a bar in the snow for one person. And we went back to our rooms after like the third set. And I got the news about John Lennon and I, we came back out and by then the band said, Steve, just get on the piano and sing nobody’s here doesn’t matter. And I got on the piano, and I sang “Imagine” all the way through without ever having sung it before. I just remembered the way I just remembered it in my head. Wow. And it’s one of those magical moments as it means For you just can picture the song in your head. And I just sang it. And

Hal In Philly 9:06
I’ll never forget that night.

Unknown Speaker 9:07
Yeah, I was actually. Yeah, go ahead.

Hal In Philly 9:10
I was tending bar that night at the Blue Lagune Saloon. And I think Moon Martin was playing that night. But anyway. Yeah. And his song was on the jukebox and Elvis Costello’s song Accidents will happen was playing when I heard the news.

Hal In Philly 9:29
that was always one of my favorite songs. But all the sudden it took on a new meaning. Just the words Accidents will happen, because obviously that was no accident, but

Unknown Speaker 9:43

Hal In Philly 9:43
I wanted to go home. I didn’t want to 10 bar after that. It’s like, I can’t do this, but

Hal In Philly 9:48
I powered through.

Unknown Speaker 9:50
Yeah, it was a tough night to get through. It was really was. I remember I called my best friend Diane who lived in New York and I just said and we just commiserate and over it.

Hal In Philly 10:03
Yeah, she’d be the one with the couch.

Unknown Speaker 10:06
Yes. Yes. After the band broke up, I moved to New York and I lived on her couch. And I had I came to New York with $50 in my pocket and a microphone, a leftover microphone. And that’s all I got from the band.

Unknown Speaker 10:20

Unknown Speaker 10:26
Yeah. (laughs) So, so I was living on Columbus Avenue and I decided to find a job waiting tables, and I got a job at a fish restaurant called Dobson’s, and it is, and also, I had gone to a gay bar, a piano bar called bullguard. And on a Friday night, I was listening to the piano player and I made in between sets and I said, Oh, other animal planet singer and I’m new in town and the next day, he calls me and he says, I’ve got laryngitis Is Do you think you can fill in for me tonight? Well, I didn’t have a set. But then I hadn’t played in songs in a long time. I still didn’t know any musical theater. Just a few things that we that I barely remember from Dallas. And I it was one of those one of those moments where I thought, well, I can either say yes, or I can say no. And on the way to the gig, I bought a bunch of fake books, and sat down open a fake book and just started sight reading music.

Hal In Philly 11:31
Did you already know how to sight read?

Unknown Speaker 11:33
I knew how to read music. And so, but I didn’t know the names of the popular song. So I was just kind of picking things at random. And I got my first set. I remember I could do Moon Dance. Yeah, I could do a few, like just bar standards, some Beatle songs, some Neil Young songs, stuff that I already kind of knew some of them were in the books. And but I remember one One moment, I stopped I was just talking to somebody taking me seems smoke in her eyes and I thought, okay, so opened up and I found Smoke Gets In Your Eyes. I started to sing it. And I got to the bridge. Now if you know the bridge of Smoke Gets In Your Eyes? It’s impossible. It goes off into a key that is unbelievable. And since I hadn’t heard it before, I didn’t know where I was going. And I just stopped.

Hal In Philly 12:28
Songs like that where the bridge throws me might not have been that one. But there’s other songs that we get to the bridge and that happens and you just fall apart and just go, Okay, next.

Unknown Speaker 12:39
Okay, I’m not going to do that. Well, I got through two sets and that I repeated by first and my stomach, I was so nervous. My stomach was hurting so bad I could I couldn’t even breathe. And I just told the bartender and I said, Look, I gotta go home. I’m sick as a dog. So I went home. I thought, I have blown it. This is the worst thing in the world… and they call me the next week. They wanted me to start doing Monday nights and Tuesday nights, you know, go slower nights. Yeah. So I ended up getting a regular gig. Well, anyway, I was waiting there at the restaurant during the daytime. And, a guy came in to sit at my table and it was the musical director from Dallas, from the theater. Oh, and, and he said, Oh, hey, you want a ship gig? And I was he just,

Hal In Philly 13:24
He was just visiting there at the time?

Unknown Speaker 13:27
Yeah, he was just sitting at my table. I was just waiting on. It was like, pure accident.

Hal In Philly 13:31

Unknown Speaker 13:33
Yeah. And he says, Oh, yeah, I remember you. Yeah, but yeah, you’re good, you’re good. He said, look at they wanted me to ship kick, but I don’t want to do it. You want to do a ship gig? And they were okay. So I got on this cruise ship. And they started doing put New York they started doing these cruise cruises to nowhere. Well, basically, it’s a gambling cruise where they go out past the three mile limit and all these hoodlums

Hal In Philly 14:03
So this wasn’t a Regular cruise we were gone for three months at a time. This was like a local cruise?

Unknown Speaker 14:08
Yeah, it was. It was it was a ship that they had just refitted. So they were testing it out. And they were they were going out in the middle of the ocean. They were gambling and I mean by the time we got back, they stripped that ship bear every plant was gone. It was hysterical!

Hal In Philly 14:29
Is there a particular story you remember from from working on the ship because the cruise ships always have some kind of mishap.

Unknown Speaker 14:37
Well, yes, about a month or two. After we started doing that all of a sudden I got on the ship to go because we were coming in every day. So I was staying, you know, I was living at home. So we got on the ship and they said oh, we’re not coming back for five days. We’re going to Bermuda.

Unknown Speaker 14:55
Nobody told me. I had on my tux. That’s all the clothes I had!

Hal In Philly 15:01
Nice… Thanks for the heads up.

Unknown Speaker 15:04
Thanks for the heads-up. So we went to Bermuda, we came back we started down Florida and everything. Well, the ship was… it was an old beautiful liner from the 40s. And it got purchased by a Greek shipping company who were… This is 1984. And they decided they wanted to break into the shipping industry because it was kind of new. Nowadays, a lot of cruise industry is gigantic. It’s one of the biggest industries in the world. But back then it was just getting started. The revival of it. I mean, they they had pick it on a get the ship in their agreement with the Italian government if they hired an X number of Italian crew. So they put Italians in the, in the casino, and in the restaurant, as waiters and cooks, the Greeks, this particular ship that was run like a military dictatorship, they didn’t really know how to do modern cruising. So it was a run like a Like the military, right? And they were being really mean to all the passengers, not passengers, they would shout at the crew and they would kick them and they would curse at them and they would hit them. And it was just an incredible experience. I was the only American on board. Well, at one point, a Greek officer came in one night into the restaurant late at night, and he, he confronted this Italian cook and said, “Make me Make me You’re making me something to eat!” And the Italian was cleaning up and he said, “No.” I don’t know what the deal was. But anyway, anyway, the Greek guy hit the Italian cook. Oh, my goodness! cook was a huge man and he picked up the Greek officer and threw him across the kitchen, put a huge gash in his head. So they decided to fire the cook. Well now, we’re cruising now to Nassau. in the Bahamas. Right. All the Italians decide that they’ve had enough and they decide to MUTINY. So picture this: You’re, you’re a passenger on a beautiful cruise ship. And you’re Nassau and you’re descending the stairs on to the port. And down on the dock. There are 160 Italians, screaming and yelling and rioting; Yelling, “Down with the Greeks! Down with the Greeks!”

Hal In Philly 17:24
Hah! You’re in the the middle of the Greek – Italian War. Holy shit!

Unknown Speaker 17:28
It was fantastic… Well, the one thing you don’t do in a military dictatorship is upset that Captain, is embarrassed the Captain.The Italians won, because what are they going to do? Not sail without, with, you know, restaurant and casino crew? And so the Italians won the fight and the next the next step, the Greek officer got thrown off off the ship at the next port,

Unknown Speaker 17:56
So… they kept the cook.

Unknown Speaker 17:57
They kept the cook.

Hal In Philly 17:58
Oh, good, burgers for everyone!

Unknown Speaker 18:05
So I did that for like 13 months and that’s what a Jimmy, my current husband current husband. I say current… We together now for 35 years, I guess.

Hal In Philly 18:14
Yeah, congratulations! Now, that’s where you met him on that cruise or during..?

Unknown Speaker 18:19
That’s where I met him. It was, in fact. I used the cruise to learn the American Songbook. I got all my fake books. And I had to play five hours a day. At at different hours, you know, like before lunch after lunch cocktail hour at night. So I learned all the musical theater and I learned the American Songbook and it was a great year of just sheer learning music in front of an audience. Because most of them don’t pay attention anyway. Right. They’re drinking their coffee.

Unknown Speaker 18:55
Yeah, I’m just background.

Hal In Philly 18:56
Yeah, I call it musical wallpaper because I do that. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 19:00
And it was a fine gig for me because it meant that I could learn all of this music that I never learned before and get better as a musician too, because you play five hours a day, you can get better at it. But after 13 months, Jimmy, I met him and we left the ship. And we eventually moved to New York. I mean, we we were living in New York. And then he wrote a script. And we ended up going out to and moving to Los Angeles. And it was a it was a script that he wrote that Disney option.

Hal In Philly19:29
Was it a movie or a TV show?

Unknown Speaker 19:33
It was going to be for a TV show but Disney development, Hal. It never worked out. But anyway, we moved out to LA and I didn’t really know what I was going to do. Cuz, it I didn’t really know anyone in LA. And that’s how in as the National Academy of Songwriters happened shoutcaster, the songwriter who was a friend of Jim’s, so we should go to NAS and learn about the music business. So I showed up at the front door. And I had never really had a desk job before. I certainly didn’t know anything about the business, right? They put me on the front desk. If you remember we had an 800 number that anybody in the country could call if they had a question about the music industry. That was one of our deals. So they put me on the 800. Me who knew nothing?

Hal In Philly 20:25
The 800 guy

Unknown Speaker 20:26
I’m the 800 guy to answer all the questions from everybody out in the country who calls in. Well, what a great learning experience for me because I didn’t know the answer. So I had to look up the answers or ask other people the answers, or call and ask the answers. So by by being the guy on the information line, I learned about music publishing, I learned about lawyers. I learned about song pitching. ASCAP and BMI… that was usually the question – which one’s better? ASCAP or BMI? Or how do I get my song listened to? You know, that’s usually what people want to know.

Hal In Philly 21:00
Well fortunately back then you could just refer everybody to John Braheny, because he’d be the best person to listen to anybody’s song at the time, I think.

Unknown Speaker 21:09
Right, and we also had some listening things so…

Hal In Philly 21:12
Yeah, pitches and cassette roulette ‘n stuff.

Unknown Speaker 21:14
In fact, once I learned aboutJohn and there was kind of little rivalry between LASS (John’s group) and NAS, and I said “rivalries are stupid.” And I called them up immediately my first week in town and I went and met with him and said, How can we work together?

Hal In Philly 21:33
So YOU did that! Good good on ya!

Unknown Speaker 21:36
well cuz I don’t understand rivalry. Rivalry’s stupid. Yeah. And it may be the other people also did that. But I I definitely did that.

Hal In Philly 21:45
See, when I got to LA, the to organizations were still separate. And I didn’t understand the difference. I didn’t know if they were connected. Like I never could figure that out. You just, you just solved it for me. Just now!

Unknown Speaker 21:59
Yeah, I mean, I think probably they were they were rivals mostly because there’s the songwriter down where they have to survive. So

Hal In Philly 22:07
right then they were both membership organization.s, so they were kind of competing for your for the buck.

Unknown Speaker 22:14
Yeah, exactly. So I understood why there would be a rivalry but I didn’t. I didn’t go in there having an understanding of the history of the two organizations, right. All I knew was they helped. My job was to help songwriters. How can I partner with them to make sure that songwriters get help because I just didn’t really care about having rivalry. I just thought it was stupid. Because if you feed each other, actually, more people will get involved in both. Right? Because what you want are opportunities

Unknown Speaker 22:49
and where did you stand with the Songwriters Guild?

Unknown Speaker 22:54
I didn’t really have much contact with them at first. They were a little standoffish.

Unknown Speaker 23:01
Song Writers Guild at that time especially, they were more of a professional lobbying organization out of Nashville. And I think they kind of were doing their own thing that I could tell.

Hal InPhilly 23:15

Unknown Speaker 23:15
And LASS in any us For more on this on the street. So I honestly I didn’t really have an awareness of them very much.

Unknown Speaker 23:29
Also, I think their membership is, was I don’t know how it is now, it was a little more inclusive, you know, you had to be a member and you had to do all kinds of things. We had open door policies and so to LASS, right. So I, I just didn’t really know that much about them. And I think their corporate headquarters in Nashville didn’t really like the fact that we were there. But that was my recollection. But anyway, after I was there for about nine months or a year, and thenw we had the big the Salute to the American Songwriter concert was how we made a lot of our money and that was the year. Kevin Odegard, the old, the old guard of everybody who had been there before Madeline Smith, Marc Spears. Kevin had made this big deal with VH1 and they were gonna they videotape the salute. And that’s the first one that I went to. Well, that was a six hour taping that everyone hated. Ended up

Hal In Philly24:29
I volunteered at that one.

Unknown Speaker 24:31
Oh, did you?

Hal In Philly 24:32
Yeah. And you know what happened? I got sick as a dog. I was. I realized while I was walking down that I was showing Jimmy Webb to a seat. That was my first assignment. And while I’m walking into a seat, I started to feel the flu like I like I knew I was getting sick. It was just like suddenly, and the next person they had assigned me to escort to a seat was Graham Nash. And my head was swirling from the fever and I probably would have passed out, even if I was – well, because it was Graham Nash. But I didn’t want to make him sick. And I don’t know if it was you or Dan, I don’t know, whoever reported to I can’t remember. But I just remember

Unknown Speaker 25:13
it was probably Dan, I didn’t have much to do with that first when I was kind of the volunteer. Yeah. And I didn’t know everything that was going on. I think mostly I attended. My recollection is I send it as, as just a person in the audience.

Hal In Philly 25:28
So anyway, they sent you know, he said, Well, if you don’t feel good, you know, go home. We’ll cover it, but I was so upset that I missed that. You know, that I was so looking forward to that day. But I honestly I panic when they said Graham Nash. I don’t want to make Graham Nash sick.

Unknown Speaker 25:45
Right. Well, it ended up being a great show, but it was a disaster for the organization for NAS financially I think, cuz I never got all these stories directly. I’m sort of presuming and the place was way, way under into debt, almost $60,000 in debt and they had to let all they had to let everybody go. So Kevin went, Madeline went, Mark went. And in other words, everybody around there who knew anything, except for me and Dan Kirkpatrick and Paul solo on the newspaper. Paul was basically taking care of the newspaper. He wasn’t involved in everyday business. And so Danny and I got in a room. He went to talk to the board and the board said, “Well, look, we don’t have any money. The place is really gone. Kevin’s gone. Why don’t we just close up all the offices, go down to a phone. And we’ll just say goodbye. So Danny, and I had a meeting between the two of us and we said, “What if we not do that? What if we don’t follow the board’s advice and instead, keep it open? And I said if you will handle the money, and the corporate, I will handle the services and now we’ll figure out a way to get this place going again.” And he said, “All right, if you’ll do that, I’ll do this.” And that was my, really the beginning of the revival of NAS.  I started getting people to volunteer in the office to all the work. And I started setting up a workshop or seminar of something almost every night of the week. So I was working up there 12 and 14 hours a day, and I was I was working all day long, and then I would run the workshop night and we would charge $3 $5, whatever for people to come to these seminars have produced the workshops.

Hal In Philly 27:40
Yeah, I am on one with Barbara Jordan.

Unknown Speaker 27:43
God, yeah, the way I kept it going, and this is just pure instinct is I told all the volunteers I said, “If you will volunteer here or intern here, whenever anybody calls our office from the industry, I will, if they’re looking for interns in a legitimate business,” because we were nonprofit, but like if a if a publisher or a lawyer or a songwriter, somebody wants an intern, whoever is the best worker for me, “I will give you a way that will let you go to the best job.” That way. It gave incentive for people to work really hard for in my office, knowing that I wouldn’t hang on to the best workers, I would give the best workers away. And I really think that that that was a very smart move, because we got good people in there. And then they moved on and they started working for other people. And so NAS became a supplier of, you know, for people who wanted to get into the business. But after a year, we were 50 – $56,000 in debt after a year, we had brought all the way up and got us debt. And I’m very, very proud of of having done that. And it was just through sharing one of the things that I did was, I decided to turn that into a learning experience for myself, whoever I wanted to meet in the music industry, like a famous attorney or or an A&R person or producer, I would call them and say, Hello, I’m the services director at the National Academy of Songwriters, would you like to come and do a seminar? Well, everybody in the business loves to be, you know, the Go-To Guy, the expert in the room. And so they would come over and I would sit on the dais with him and we would do these workshops. And that’s how I made all of my music industry contacts, as well as getting a first hand look at learning how the industry works from the inside out. So it was an education for me. It was, it gave great services to our membership, and it attracted people to NAS so that we had a more robust you know, membership and membership services,

Hal InPhilly 29:58

Unknown Speaker 29:59
Well anyway, after I got sick,

Unknown Speaker 30:01
you know what happened went down and…

Hal In Philly30:03
when did you first find out

Unknown Speaker 30:04
I tested positive in 1993. And then in ’94 is when I got really sick.

When I tested positive… Now Brett told, told this story on your on your podcast. Oh, you got the day that I came in and told everybody, right and Brett had… Well, he had confided in me that it’s a personal thing.. And, and so when, when I told him I was gay. Before I told him I was had AIDS, the year, it was probably in the year before. I told him… We got a room together and he said “Look, I want to tell you, I have a little have a little problem with it. I’m uncomfortable.” And I said to him, “I completely understand. I’m good with that. I liked the fact that you told me and we can be just fine together. And if you’re uncomfortable, you don’t have to do or say anything that makes you uncomfortable. But I’m completely good with it.” And from then on, we had a great working relationship. But the day that I told him that I was HIV positive, he rushed up to me and he planted a kiss right on my lips. And I think it was the, one of the greatest moments of just pure love from one human being to another that I’d ever experienced because I knew how far he had come. Not just fear of kissing, so with HIV, but the whole gay thing and all of that And I was really moved by it. And I was moved by everyone in the office. I didn’t hold back a single detail. I told everybody on like, the day after I tested positive I told everybody and then I started getting sick and I knew I had to leave. Now, Brett, tell the story. I want you to know, I don’t. I didn’t beg him to stay. I begged him not trying to make a joke about it’s like, Are you kidding? I said from the table. I told you. No, I don’t want you to take over. That’s not really true. He was I thought he was the best qualified to because he could stand in front of people and talk. Yeah. You know

Hal In Philly 33:01
You definitely made the right choice there. Brett was great. He’s still great

Unknown Speaker 33:08
Brett’s Pawn Shop Preachers

Hal In Philly 33:10
Now the Pawn Shop Preachers… He told you, that I told him, that I didn’t like his, his, his accent on that record. And then he just finished saying that it was the Oh, that’s where he comes from. Well, no, here’s what I told him. I said, first of all, nobody sings like that. I said, that is not an he’s been in Europe too long. That is not an authentic Southern accent. by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a cornball accent or in the voiceover industry. They call it a “Foghorn Leghorn”. The reason I said that to him, is because I thought the songs that he wrote were really good. Yeah, they are. There’s a couple of things. songs in there that I said there’s one I mentioned, I forgot the name of it now, but there was one that I mentioned to him that I wrote it back and I said, this is incredibly incisive, brilliantly intellectual song. just unbelievable, unlike anything I’ve ever heard him right because mostly he writes like, like pop, which is fine. But this is a really deep number and II can’t remember the one it was I he, I could go back and try to find out. But my point to him was the songs too good to treat it like a joke. When when you’re doing a fake Southern accent, you’re telegraphing your punch line, you’re telling everybody Hey, everybody, look, I’m telling the joke. When you can’t, you can’t do that. Because then you undercut the seriousness of what you’re writing. And it’s not funny anymore, right? You don’t telegraph a joke, or you don’t telegraph a punch line, and that song has a punch line in it. So that was my criticism of it. College because we spent all that money on recording it. So I basically go back and do it again.

Hal In Philly 35:06
Yeah, right. So, so they went,

Unknown Speaker 35:11
but I took it as a compliment, because the thing is music,

Hal In Philly 35:15
right? No, I understand. I understand what you told him. That’s

Unknown Speaker 35:18
the way I took it from is that look, I’m saying really good things about your music because I don’t think you should undercut what you’ve written by putting on cornball singing. Yeah.  And accepting an accent that that’s not your own. That’s not your role and exactly, you know, so you can defend it all at once, but I’m still not gonna give up.

Unknown Speaker 35:44
I like Brett.

Unknown Speaker 35:45
Everybody loves Brett.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Posted by Hal in acoustic, country music, entertainers, jazz, keyboard player, live music, pianist, piano player, singer songwriters, 0 comments

Ronstadt Brothers

Ronstadt Brothers

Michael and Petie Ronstadt – Linda Ronstadt’s Most Talented Nephews

Hal in Philly talks with Petie and Michael at  Bah Fo Studio in Ambler, PA with Rick Denzien and wife Debra Lee occasionally chiming in with a question or comment.

 If you had two million dollars

Aunt Linda Ronstadt

Sound of My Voice Documentary

Ronstadt Generations

Growing up in the Ronstadt Family

Travelling with a cello

Tales of the Road


What’s next? Current Projects

Links to Ronstadt Brothers Websites

Official Ronstadt Brothers Facebook Page

Michael Ronstadt Website

Petie Ronstadt

The Foolish Fox Video

If you’d like support the show, please click this link or the Tip Jar below. This will  take you to PayPal  where you can designate any amount you wish to be used toward production costs and groceries.

Thank you!

tip-jar gas money

Posted by Hal, 0 comments

Lyra Project

Rick and Deb – Zero Emissions Musicians

Lyra Poject

Debra Lee and Rick Denzien of Lyra Project

Lyra Project is a music duo fronted by Debra Lee with husband and music partner Rick Denzien, since 2001. They have collaborated together and with others, create & perform music with a universal humanitarian and spiritual message of compassion, peace, forgiveness, tolerance and inner transformation. Themes have expanded to include social and environmental issues. Notice I made the “Play” button bright green? Because green is what the future of the planet is all about!

Latest release: the award-winning GODDESS.  They also have a CD entitled Walking Together, a compilation of songs based on their early spiritual influences. Currently working on their second album.

In the early 2000s, Lyra Project performed at festivals, churches, community centers, special events, coffeehouses and house concerts, etc.

Rick & Deb created their own circle of venues within the Philly area and the suburb of Ambler, PA. They started the Songwriters Original Showcase at a local community theater, followed by ThriveStation House Concerts, and most recently ThriveFest.US, a music a festival promoting and eco-sustainability.  Local venues supported by providing songwriters opportunities to perform and network. together.

Debra as a co-coordinator  for the Philadelphia Chapter of NSAI (Nashville Songwriters  Association International). Shebrought Liz Miller on board as co-coordinator in 2017, and they continue to dedicate their efforts to building community within the songwriting community.

Deb & Rick have been environmental activists since 2013, when they got their first fully electric vehicle, a Nissan Leaf. Rick spearheaded a movement called Zero Emission Musicians, spreading a message of eco-sustainability and well-being among musicians and the public at large. They refer to themselves as the Zero Emissions Musicians because they’ve achieved 0% emission in their car, home and businesses.

They did the first-ever zero-emission, cross-country music tour from Dec 2018 to Jan 2019.  Over the summer of 2019 they hit the road again in their electric car to music festivals in Virginia, North Carolina, and Buffalo NY. This December, they’re heading out again to play down Florida way.

Talking Points

Co-writing process, The “Cat Lady”, Collaborating with other songwriters, including Michael Ronstadt, vocal coach Lisa Popiel and their original music, John Braheny, and Chad Watson

Lyra Project  Links and Resources

Lyra Project Music

bäh-fō Studio
World class recording engineer, Rick Denzien,
P.O. Box 567 • Ambler, PA 19002

DenLee Studio
DenLee Music Studio is affiliated with Bah-fo Recording Studio,
a professional-fully commercial production recording facility, located in the same building.

If you’d like support the show, please click this link or the Tip Jar below. This will  take you to PayPal  where you can designate any amount you wish to be used toward production costs and groceries.

tip-jar gas money

The following is an affiliate link. You can also help support the Tales of the Road Warriors podcast when you purchace gifts from The Music Stand!

School Supplies at TheMusicStand.com


Posted by Hal, 2 comments

James Lee Stanley

Everybody’s Favorite Freelance Human Being

james lee stanleyWhere to begin? There are singer/songwriters, there are philosophers, there are humorists, there are entertainers and then are freelance human beings. The powers that be have been trying to define James Lee Stanley for years. Think – Will Rogers but with a guitar. I’m not going to go into a long introduction here, but briefly, here’s what you should know…

This was recorded just days before James was scheduled to have a Squamous Cell Carcinoma  removed from the base of his tongue along with some surrounding nodes. As I write this, he’s resting uncomfortably and trying to sleep sitting up with a tube down his throat according to a recent post he wrote on his Facebook page. You can help him out by purchasing James Lee Stanley CDs and merch. Links are below to his website.

JLS has recorded about 35 CDs. If you closed your eyes and picked a single one,  you will have picked out a collection of songs that you could listen to multiple times. Like the one you would want to have if you had to choose which cd you’d want if your were stuck on a desert island. He’s that good. His latest is the critically acclaimed Without Susie. Well crafted songs and a voice that soothes the soul, whether it be a ballad or rock and roll. Speaking of rock and roll, James has toured with Peter Tork before, during and post Monkees, as well as recorded Peter’s solo albums, and as a duo dubbed, The Two Man Band on his Beachwood Recordings label.

James talked at length about his days as coowner  of the  Folk Ghetto, venue he opened  in Virginia during the folk music boom of the 1960’s.

But wait , there’s more! In 2005 he also recorded an acoustic album of songs by the Rolling Stones called All Wood and Stones with John Batdorf (Batdorf and Rodney), then followed that up in 2001 when he collaborated with Cliff Eberhart on All Wood and Doors. Original members of The Doors, Robby Krieger and John Densmore were so impressed with what they had done with the Stones songs, they offered to contribute their talent to the All Wood and Doors project. They are nothing less than astounding, no that’s not it; amazing, no that’s not it; incomparable, fuck it, I can’t think of an adjective that does it justice. But wait. He’s not finished yet. Do you like Led Zeppelin? Well, good, because, he recently finished recording All Wood and Led with Dan Navarro (Lowen and Navarro) and I have to claim some bragging rights here… I got to listen to some of it while  in the car with James, on the way to a radio station interview. It’s still in the mixing stage but here’s a heads-up: I  give it an OMG in gigantic capital letters.

And now, let’s get on with the conversation with one of the most prolific  and talented road warriors I’ve ever had  the pleasure to know…

Things we talked about… Growin’ up.  Africa, Philly, Virginia, New York, California


Links To All Things James Lee Stanley

Another Radio Show” from James Lee Stanley broadcast from now on, on Ron Olesko‘s Folk Music Notebook every Tuesday at 10pm ET / 7m PT with an encore broadcast at 3am ET / midnight PT

James Lee Stanley Website   – News, Links, News, The Man, The Music, Store, etc.


All Wood and Stones CD

All Wood and Doors CD


Posted by Hal in folk music, live music, music venues, 0 comments